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NCAAB: Handicapping The NIT Tourney

While all eyes are focused on the Madness of March and the NCAA tournament, there lurking in the shadows can sometimes lie a betting opportunity that few like to mention aloud for fear of esteem-crushing ridicule from friends. 

It’s called the NIT. 

Go ahead, mock me for even bringing it up when A&M’s 12-point comeback in 44 seconds against UNI is still being talked about around water coolers. But sports betting is about money and there is often cash to be made on the lesser followed events and you can count the NIT among those. (It's true.) 

The challenge and the opportunity within the NIT is just what I Tweeted last week – motivation may trump stats, coaching strategies and even talent when it comes to picking who will cover the spread. 

  

Georgia Tech obliterated Houston 81-62 last Wednesday as a 4-point favorite and followed it up with a thumping over South Carolina (83-66) on Monday as a 4-point underdog. 

When scores are that lopsided against half decent teams, combined with spreads that appear to be badly miscalculated it’s a red flag. Some teams just don’t care whether they’re in the NIT or not and it shows up in their play. 

Georgia Tech has been at the favorable end of that so far but I'm wondering if the tables might be turned on Wednesday. Not that the Yellow Jackets don’t want to advance to New York for the NIT Final Four – they do. But they didn’t find out until about 2 a.m. Tuesday morning that they had to travel over 2,000 miles and across three time zones to beautiful San Diego where a hungry Aztec team awaits. 

“It’s an advantage for the team that doesn’t have to fly – a huge advantage…. And we have to take advantage of it,” coach Steve Fisher told the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

San Diego State’s Viejas Arena of about 12,000 sold out by late afternoon Tuesday for this game and you can expect a rowdy crowd Wednesday night. I’m not sure the Aztecs shouldn’t be laying more than the five points they’re giving way on the opening line and that’s where my money is here. 

Florida, meanwhile, travels to George Washington to take on the Colonials in the other NIT matchup on tap tonight.  At first I was leaning to a hot shooting Gators team between two pretty evenly matched teams statistically. 

Then I read a tiny note in this story about Florida travelling to the nation’s capital and saw the Gators will be doing some sight-seeing before tonight’s game. This might mean nothing at all but I’ve been sight seeing in D.C. and it’s as amazing as it is exhausting because of all the walking you end up doing. Gators coach Mike White said, “we don’t want to get our brains beat in too bad” from exploring the history Washington, D.C. has to offer, but not sure that’s avoidable if you’re going to try to soak in the whole experience. 

Unlike handicapping the NCAA tournament – or just about any other event for that matter – these are items you have to consider when you’re betting the NIT. 

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