Thursday April 2nd, 2015

College basketball will crown a national champion on Monday, but that won’t be the first title earned in the sport this month. Loyola-Chicago won the CBI on Wednesday night, and the NIT and CIT wrap up on Thursday. Those tournaments, in a way, may represent the future of college basketball with their 30-second shot clocks. Let’s check in on each tournament’s championship game.

NIT: No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 2 Miami

The NIT was nearly as chalky as the NCAA tournament, with No. 1 seeds Temple and Old Dominion joining the Cardinal and Hurricanes in the semifinals. Had Miami come all the way back in its ACC tournament loss to Notre Dame, it probably would have been in the Big Dance, but the Canes didn't allow for a letdown in the NIT. They upset Temple in the semifinals even without guard Angel Rodriguez, who is dealing with an injured wrist.

MORE CBB: NCAA tournament Final Four power rankings

Stanford’s Chasson Randle scored 24 points in the semifinal win over Old Dominion, leading the Cardinal to the championship at Madison Square Garden after a disappointing regular season. Both these teams like to shoot it from deep, though the Hurricanes do a much better job shutting down their opponents from behind the arc. They’ll need a big game out of Sheldon McClellan if Rodriguez is unable to play on Thursday. The matchup between big men Tonye Jekiri and Stefan Nastic could end up being the fulcrum on which this game swings.

CIT: Northern Arizona vs. Evansville

College Basketball
Sports Illustrated experts make their picks for Saturday's Final Four games

Northern Arizona and Evansville each notched victories at home to advance to the championship game, with the former knocking off NJIT and the latter taking care of Tennessee-Martin. The CIT does not feature a neutral-site championship game, and the Purple Aces of Evansville will host the title matchup on Thursday.

Evansville's best win this year was against Northern Iowa in its first conference game of the season, and the Purple Aces also picked up victories over Loyola-Chicago and Belmont. Northern Arizona, meanwhile, beat St. Mary’s for its most impressive win this year. Evansville is a heavy favorite thanks to its offense, which ranks 51st in the country in effective field goal percentage, and guard D.J. Balentine. The junior is averaging 18.9 points and 3.2 assists per game this season.

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