With the Pac-12 regaining some of the strength that it had lost in recent seasons, making it to the NIT isn't as exciting as it has been the past few years, but for Arizona State, Stanford and Washington, the secondary post-season offers an excellent opportunity to get some more practices and games for underclassmen to grow and for seniors to chase just a little bit more glory. On top of that, if you are a basketball junkie and can't stand the weight in between NCAA Tournament games, the NIT is that perfect quick fix, especially if Pac-12 teams are playing.
6:30 p.m. PT ESPN
3 BYU (21-11) vs. 6 Washington (18-15)
Finishing third in the West Coast Conference, playing BYU in Provo will be a huge challenge for the turnover-prone Huskies. Led by the WCC's leading scorer, sophomore guard Tyler Haws (20ppg), the Cougars put a lot of pressure on the ball, can get very hot from the outside. One of the tougher places to play out West, Provo should be a tough venue for the Huskies, who didn't play particularly well on the road and they will need C.J. Wilcox and the recently hot Scott Suggs to knock down shots early and keep the crowd out of the game.
The Cougars have one of the best big men in the WCC in senior Brandon Davies (17ppg & 7 rpg), but have very little size outside of that, so it might be wise for the Huskies to look to go inside with Aziz N'Diaye and Shawn Kemp Jr. to try and take advantage of their size advantage.
8 p.m. PT ESPN2
4 Stanford (18-14) vs. 5 Stephen F. Austin (27-4)
The defending NIT champion Cardinal draw the Southland Conference regular season champions who are fresh off dropping their conference championship game. SFA lost only four games, but play in a very soft conference, though that might give them the motivation advantage. Having won last year, it's unlikely that the Cardinal are ecstatic about returning to the NIT, and the Lumberjacks may be much hungrier for some NIT accolades.
The Lumberjacks are led by senior forward Taylor Smith who was one of the all-around best players in the Southland, leading the conference in rebounding and blocked shots while averaging 15 points per game. The Lumberjacks have a tough match-up size wise against the cardinal though, as their two starting forwards are 6'6 215, so containing 6'10 235 Stanford star center Dwight Powell and 6'7 230 forward Josh Huestis, may be next to impossible.
7 p.m. PT ESPNU
3 Arizona State (21-12) vs. 6 Detroit (20-12)
Outside of Kentucky, there may not be a more talented team in the NIT this year than Arizona State but after flirting with a potential NCAA Tournament berth throughout much of the season, they may not be thrilled to be headed to the NIT. The Sun Devils can't mope though, if they hope to get by the Titans who finished second in the Horizon League. As the Titans played Syracuse, Temple, Pitt, Miami and St. John's tough out of conference and beat MAC champion Akron.
Expect to see a great backcourt battle as both teams are led by their star point guards, with freshman sensation Jahii Carson matching up with Titan's junior Ray McCallum, who is the son of Detroit's coach and an 18 point per game scorer. McCallum is considered a second-round NBA Draft prospect either this year or next and is assuredly looking forward to taking on the Sun Devils' talent freshman.