NIT title could pit last year's NCAA finalists

April 01, 2008 8:39 PM
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by Mark Mayer | The NIT championship game has the potential of a rematch from last year’s NCAA Final. Florida, the NCAA champ the previous two seasons, is a 4-point favorite over Massachusetts in one semifinal matchup at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden. Game time is 4 p.m. PT. The second semifinal pits Ohio State, last year’s runnerup to Florida, against Mississippi. The Buckeyes are a 2-point favorite over the Rebels with game time slated for 6:20 PT.

In the opener Florida comes into the Garden off three straight spread covers, including a 70-57 victory as a 3˝-point underdog at Arizona State. Since Coach Billy Donovan’s expletive rant about his team not deserving to wear Gator colors on campus, Florida has played some its best basketball. UMass is 2-1 ATS in the tourney, including an 81-77 road upset of Syracuse after trailing by as many as 24 points.

Ohio State has breezed through the first three rounds of the NIT, winning each game by double digits. The Buckeyes reached the semifinals with a 74-63 victory over Dayton. All three victories came in Columbus. Ole Miss has a glossy 8-3 ATS mark as an underdog, including an 81-72 victory at Virginia Tech to reach the NIT’s Final Four. Tech took North Carolina to the wire before falling in the ACC tourney semifinals, 68-66.

We’ll lean to an all-SEC final with Florida and Mississippi both winning and covering the number. Picks: Florida, Ole Miss.