Stephen Nover Free NIT Tuesday Play

On March 13, 2018, in Free Picks, NCAAB, by Stephen

Northern Kentucky plus 7 at Louisville

It’s best if Louisville just ended its rocky, controversial and disappointing basketball season. The Cardinals know that. Their players voted against playing in the NIT after failing to get an NCAA Tournament bid.

However, school officials are forcing the Cardinals to play this game. I’m not expecting much of an effort from Louisville.

But while Louisville seems totally disinterested, Northern Kentucky is anxious and excited. It’s an opportunity for the Norse to knock off one of the two powerful in-state basketball programs.

Northern Kentucky was 15-3 in its last 18 games until getting upset by Cleveland State in the Horizon League Tournament. The Norse had defeated Cleveland State twice during the regular season by an average of 16 points. They won’t be flat and overconfident here. It’s a chance for them to redeem their season.

Unlike other NIT first-round underdogs, Northern Kentucky doesn’t have to travel far with Louisville being just a 90-minute bus ride. Several of Northern Kentucky’s players are from Louisville, including two of their top four scorers, Lavone Holland and Tyler Sharpe.

It’s spring break on the Louisville campus right now. That means less of a crowd than normal and more Northern Kentucky fans having the chance to get tickets.

Northern Kentucky is talented enough to beat Louisville straight-up. The Norse were strong last season reaching the NCAA Tournament and staying within single digits of Kentucky in their first round tournament game easily covering the spread.

The Norse are experienced and solid on both ends of the court ranking 31st in field goal percentage and 33rd in scoring defense. They had the 10th-best defensive 3-point percentage. Northern Kentucky lost by just six points on the road against Texas A&M and buried Southern Conference powerhouse East Tennessee State by 18 points at home.

In last year’s NIT, no team seeded higher than a No. 4 even reached the semifinals. Louisville, a No. 2 seed, certainly seems to fit that pattern. The Cardinals aren’t playing that well – 2-5 in their last seven games – have no incentive and are going against a respectable, solid in-state opponent that has strong motivation and something to prove.

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