Twenty minutes of basketball left nothing decided at Madison Square Garden. Of course, twenty minutes never decides anything, but at the buzzer the championship game of the 2016 NIT was a barn-burner; George Washington held a mere single point advantage over Valparaiso.
Then the second half happened, and by the time the carnage was over the NIT championship banner was on its way to the closest arena rafters to the White House. George Washington exploded for 44 second-half points, including a 16-4 run early in the second half which left Valpo in the dust.
It's the peak of Mike Lonergan's coaching success, perhaps. Lonergan, of course, led Vermont to the post-season four times in his six years there before taking over in Foggy Bottom. But before that, he was at The Catholic University of America, where he set a record later broken by Bill Self by winning seven straight regular-season conference titles (and, oh yeah, the 2001 NCAA Division III national championship). Whether winning the NIT is bigger than winning the D-III title is a matter of your own priorities, I suppose.
A startling factoid about this year's NIT: with the exception of the Colonials, the lesser-seeded team had a dismal 2-25 record in this year's tournament. The two exceptions were eight-seed Wagner knocking off Saint Bonaventure in the first round and four-seed Georgia Tech sending South Carolina home in the second. Every other game which did not involve George Washington was chalk.
The WNIT final is now set, and we'll have more to say about this tomorrow. Florida Gulf Coast trailed by a point heading into the last 150 seconds, but Stephanie Haas drained a three, then Keneisha Atwater did the same, and suddenly Dunk City was off on a 10-0 run to bury Michigan. The Eagles advance to take on South Dakota on Saturday.
In non-game basketball stuff, and you should get a kick out of this if you're as evil as I am, last night was also the annual college slam-dunk and three-point contest. The former was won by Devin Douglas, a guy you've never heard of because he plays for the University of Mary, a Division II school in Bismarck, North Dakota. The men's three-point contest was won by Georgia Tech's Adam Smith, while the women's title was claimed by Rachel Banham of Minnesota -- someone else you've probably never heard of unless you've actually been paying attention to these posts every day. But the hilarious part: meeting head-to-head after winning their gender-based competitions, Banham beat Smith straight up.
Pardon us while we laugh.
|NATIONAL INVITATION TOURNAMENT|
|CHAMPIONSHIP||(4) George Washington 76, (1) Valparaiso 60||Kevin Larsen (GWU), 18|
|WOMEN'S NATIONAL INVITATION TOURNAMENT|
|SF||Florida Gulf Coast 71, Michigan 62||Stephanie Haas (FGCU), 20|
There are now ten college basketball games remaining before the lights go out. Only one of those ten takes place tonight, as the third and deciding game of the CBI takes place in Reno.
|COLLEGE BASKETBALL INVITATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES|
|GAME 3||8:00pm||Morehead State||at||Nevada||Reno NV||ESPNU|