The cases for Virginia and Maryland were always tough to make. Both teams were able to hang their hats on seriously good wins, yet both also had some of the ugliest losses on the bubble. That these two teams found themselves on the wrong side looking in Sunday evening isn’t all too surprising. Yet, they move on. Along with Florida State, these ACC teams are set to play in that other national tournament, starting this evening. So if the First Four match-ups aren’t to your taste, there is some fine basketball scheduled for the NIT involving ACC teams tonight.
Niagara at Maryland at 7:00 PM
Maryland got a # 2 seed in the NIT and drew a team that won its conference regular season but flopped in the conference tournament. The MAAC’s Niagara is a run-and-gun team that makes up for it’s relatively pedestrian team three-point shooting with skilled ball-handlers who rarely turn the ball over. T.J. Cline is usually the biggest man on the court for Niagara, and he measures out at only 6’8″. However, like the rest of the team, he is a gleeful participant in the perimeter-based attack and has attempted 112 threes this season (leading his team with a 33.9% mark). On the defensive end, the team is effective at forcing turnovers, critical considering Maryland’s difficulty in hanging on to the ball. Of course where Niagara has a fast, agile attack, Maryland has size. No one on the roster can match up with 7’1″ Alex Len, and the trouble that Niagara has in terms of rebounding is a serious problem against an elite offensive rebounding team like Maryland. If the Purple Eagles can scramble and keep forcing turnovers on the defensive end while getting open perimeter looks (Maryland has done a good job contesting threes all season), Niagara has a shot at the upset. Without this, however, Alex Len is well-equipped to dominate this game on both ends.