The NIT Season Tip-Off tournament is labelled a “preseason” event, but don’t let that fool you – the games this week matter, both in the standings and to bettors.
The four main hosts of the tourney, which begins Monday, are No. 6 Villanova, No. 23 Tennessee, Wake Forest, and UCLA. After a shocking 89-79 loss to Stetson to start the year, Wake Forest hopes to bounce back on Monday night at 7:00 p.m. when it hosts Hampton. Sportsbook currently has the Demon Deacons as 13.5-point favorites, down from the 14-point Sportsbook line.
New Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik has to be concerned after his team trailed by as many as 19 points before losing in his first game with the club. The Demon Deacons at least have to be encouraged with freshman J.T. Terrell, who had 26 points in the loss to Stetson.
UCLA also opens its NIT Season Tip-Off on Monday (11:00 p.m. ET). Sportsbook made the 1-0 Bruins a 19.5-point favorite over visiting Pepperdine, and the line has since shifted to 20 points.
The Bruins made short work of Cal State Northridge in their opener on Friday night, winning 83-50. UCLA got balanced scoring in the victory, including 17 points from Reeves Nelson, 16 points from Tyler Honeycutt, and 15 points from Lazeric Jones.
Villanova, considered the favorite to win the tournament among the betting public, will be a big home favorite on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. ET when it hosts Marist. The Red Foxes were 1-29 last year, so they’ll be in tough against Villanova to say the least. The question this year is whether or not the sixth-ranked Wildcats can remain a top national contender after losing leading scorer Scottie Reynolds in the offseason.
Based on their solid season debut against Bucknell, the answer could be yes. The two Coreys, Fisher and Stokes, led Villanova to a 68-52 win. Fisher had a team-high 24 points, and Stokes chipped in 11 points.
At 9:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Tennessee hosts Belmont. The Volunteers, like fellow hosts UCLA and Villanova, have already opened their season in style. Tennessee beat Chattanooga 82-62; it scored 45 first-half points and never looked back.
Tobias Harris led the way with 18 points but had plenty of support. Scotty Hopson chipped in 13 points and two steals for the Volunteers; Cameron Tatum drained two three-balls and tallied 11 points; Melvin Goins chipped in 13 of his own. Tennessee was a 19.5-point favorite at Sportsbook and a 20-point favorite at Sportsbook in that game; so it covered the spread at some books but the game was a push at other books.