It’s a second round matchup in the NIT when Conference USA locks up with the ACC in the Bluegrass State. The third-seeded Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are on the road as they travel to face the second-seeded Louisville Cardinals Sunday evening. Middle Tennessee advanced with a 91-64 first round win at home over sixth-seeded Vermont Tuesday night. Louisville dispatched seventh-seeded Northern Kentucky in their first round matchup Tuesday night. The Cardinals won the only two previous meetings, including a 76-68 home win in the last matchup on December 20, 2005.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Look for Road Upset
Middle Tennessee dropped their regular season finale and their quarterfinal matchup in the Conference USA Tournament, likely keeping them out of the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Raiders rebounded by blowing out Vermont in their first round matchup to improve to 25-7 on the season. After leading by eight at the half, Middle Tennessee used an 18-0 run as part of a 32-9 third quarter bulge to blow the game open. The Blue Raiders shot a scorching 63.3 percent from the field and went 10 of 21 from three point range and won the rebounding battle 34-22. Giddy Potts led Middle Tennessee with 25 points in the win.
The Blue Raiders are 129th in the nation in scoring offense as they score 75.3 points per game. Middle Tennessee is 132nd with 36.1 rebounds per game and tied for 120th with 14.3 assists per contest. The Blue Raiders have been sharp defensively as they are 27th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 65.8 points a night. Middle Tennessee shoots 47 percent from the floor as a team. The Blue Raiders knock down 7.4 threes per game while hitting 37.3 percent from beyond the arc. Middle Tennessee is good at the free throw line as they convert 74.3 percent of their chances this season. Nick King leads the Blue Raiders with 20.9 points plus 8.5 rebounds a game. Brandon Walters (10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Giddy Potts (13.4 points) are solid secondary options for Middle Tennessee. Antwain Johnson (10.3 points), David Simmons, Karl Gamble and Tyrik Dixon each put up at least 3.9 points a night on the year.
Louisville Cardinals Look to Reach NIT Quarterfinals
After a controversy laden season that led the to resignation of longtime coach Rick Pitino and a slew of other allegations, Louisville won their first round matchup in the NIT by fighting past Northern Kentucky in a battle of schools from the Bluegrass State. The Cardinals improved to 21-13 on the year with the win and look to reach the quarterfinals of the NIT with a win here. Louisville trailed Northern Kentucky by seven at the half after scoring just seven second quarter points but rallied to outscore the Norse 43-28 in the second half for the win. The Cardinals shot 40 percent from the field and six of 18 from three point range in the contest. Deng Adel led Louisville with 20 points in the win.
The Cardinals are 110th in the country this season in scoring offense with 75.9 points per game. The team is among the nation’s elites in rebounding with 36.9 per game, putting them 96th in the country while they are 179th in assists with 13.5 a night. Louisville is strong defensively, ranking 116th in scoring defense by allowing 70.2 points per game. The team is shooting 45.4 percent from the floor. Louisville is knocking down 7.7 three pointers per contest, while shooting at a 37 percent clip from the perimeter. The Cardinals have been sharp at the stripe, cashing in 73.7 percent of their opportunities. Deng Adel leads the team with 15.6 points plus 5.3 rebounds a night. Quentin Snider averages 12.1 points plus four assists per game while Ray Spalding is good for 12.1 points and 8.7 boards a night. V.J. King, Anas Mahmoud, Ryan McMahon and Jordan Nwora each contribute at least 5.4 points per game for Louisville.
- Blue Raiders are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 road games following three or more consecutive home games
- Blue Raiders are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600
- Blue Raiders are 7-0 ATS in their last 7 games following a straight up win of more than 20 points
- Cardinals are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 Sunday games
- Cardinals are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 vs. Conference USA
Both teams have coaching uncertainty here. Kermit Davis released a statement earlier this week that he will be taking the Ole Miss job after 16 years at the school. Meanwhile, Louisville has refused to endorse David Padgett as he still holds the interim tag. In this one, Louisville has the home court, where they are 15-5 on the year, but Middle Tennessee was 12-1 on the road this season. The Blue Raiders are experienced and gritty: they won’t be intimidated being on the road. Look for Middle Tennessee to pull a bit of an upset: take the points here.