NCAA/NIT Tonight 3/16/2011: I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S HAPPENIN' IN MY OWN TOWN

NIT home game, MOUNT UP. And pour some out for the great Nate Dogg, who's now chilling in the big Eastside Motel in the sky. RIP.


In addition to NU, there's more First Four action tonight, so hit the jump like it tried to rob you in a dice game.

#16 Alabama St. Hornets vs. #16 Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners,  5:30 central, Tru TV

Location: Dayton, Ohio
KenPom prediction: UTSA 69, Alabama State 63
Vegas Lines: UTSA -3, over/under 129

Quite the Cinderella story for the Hornets, who were 6-16 at the end of January but then reeled off 11 wins in 12 games to take the SWAC's annual slot in one of the play-in games. The SWAC is perennially the worst conference in the country, and this year might have been an all-time low, as all 10 teams were in the bottom 67 nationally per KenPom.

I don't know much about the Roadrunners, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and say they're a lot better than anyone from the SWAC, so we'll give the points and hope Alabama St. folds like they did in the 2009 play-in game when they lost by 15 to Morehead State.

#5 Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers at #4 Northwestern Wildcats, 7 central, ESPN3.com

Location: Evanston, Illinois
KenPom prediction: NU 76, UWM 64
Vegas Lines: NU -9.5, over/under 138

This will almost certainly be the last home game of the season for NU, as Boston College bitch-slapped #8 McNeese State last night and #6 Harvard went down to Oklahoma State. That means the only lower seed remaining is Long Beach State, and their chances of pulling two straight road upsets are close to zero (more on them later).

I don't have much to say on tonight's game that Rodger hasn't already posted; just read that for a preview. As for the gambling angle, I'm staying away; 9.5 is too many to give despite NU getting the KenPom love.

#11 USC Trojans vs. #11 Virginia Commonwealth Rams, 8 central, Tru TV

Location: Dayton, Ohio
KenPom Prediction: USC 68, VCU 63
Vegas Lines: USC -4.5, over/under 127.5

Definitely the most intriguing First Four game, mainly because of the coaching match-up between former Northwestern coach Kevin O'Neill and FBC man crush Shaka Smart. Quite the contrast of styles here:

- Smart is young and talented, O'Neil is old and washed up.

- After winning in the CAA tournament quarterfinals, Smart spent the night preparing a winning game plan for regular season champ George Mason. After winning in the Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals, O'Neill spent the night getting hammered in the hotel bar and fighting with Arizona boosters.

- Smart tries to wreak havoc on his opponents' psyche, while O'Neill tries to wreak havoc on his own players' psyche.

Despite KenPom's hatred of VCU (he has them rated worse than all 11 Big Ten teams), I'm taking Shaka and the points. O'Neill is most definitely a geek off the street.

#7 Long Beach State 49ers at #2 Washington St. Cougars, 9 central, ESPNU

Location: Pullman, Washington
KenPom prediction: WSU 77, LBSU 67
Vegas Lines: WSU -9, over/under 146

If you smoke like Klay Thompson do, then you're high like every day. I'll let Down With Goldy explain:

Let me see if I have this right.  You've just won a huge game over one of the better teams in your conference on the road, a big enough win that it takes your team from "no way is this an NCAA Tournament team" to "maybe this is an NCAA tournament team."  You have one game left against UCLA, one of the two best teams in your conference and a good enough team that if you beat them on the road you suddenly jump to "this is probably an NCAA tournament team."  Huge game.  Monster game.  You're also the best player on your team and it isn't even close.  So what do you do?  Get busted for marijuana possession ON YOUR WAY HOME FROM THE USC GAME.  Seriously?  Jesus Smokey, wait until you get to your hotel.  Suspended for the game, which Washington State lost in overtime.  Do you think Thompson, who averages 21-5-4 per game, would have made a difference in a tight one?  Nice work, Marley.

A win in that UCLA game and the Cougars could well be dancing right now, and instead they're in the NIT. Ouch.

The good news here is that Thompson is back for the NIT, and Long Beach State has hooked a left on Two One and Lewis and headed north for this game. If you didn't know, Long Beach is coached by Dan Monson, the same Dan Monson whose Minnesota teams lost 6 straight games to Northwestern between 2002 and 2006. While LBC LBSU was handy with the steel in the Big West regular season (finishing first), they didn't earn their keep in the conference tournament, going down to the Gauchos of UC-Santa Barbara (or is it Santa Teresa, home of Kinsey Millhone?) Anyways, I take every chance to bet against Monson, so bet the Cougars and hope Thompson can wait until after the game to hit the bong.

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