No other major sport has a season finale as dramatic as the NCAA tournament. And, no other sport can boast the depth to have a completely separate tournament for the teams that do not make the Big Dance whose finals are played in arguably the best arena in sports (Madison Square Garden). Washington, Minnesota, Stanford, and Massachusetts were left outside the bubble two weeks ago, but they play on in the NIT.
Today, I’ll spotlight four players: two that I think you should play and two that I think you should stay away from. They are the goods and the not so goods. While relatively few people will remember who won the NIT next year (or next week, for that matter), the school can use the minor trophy as a recruiting tool. Wichita State won the NIT last year and Dayton won two years ago over North Carolina.
Minnesota vs. Washington
Good: Rodney Williams ($204,000), forward, Minnesota Golden Gophers
Prior to the 2010-11 season, Williams was talked about as a possible NBA prospect because of his size and athleticism. That talk calmed down as Williams averaged 6.8 points in his sophomore season, but he may revive talk of the next level with his performance in the NIT. Granted, Minnesota does not have Trevor Mbakwe (who may be back next year after being granted a sixth season of eligibility) or Ralph Sampson III ($83,000) (knee), so someone has to score. And Williams has. He has put in at least 20 points in his last four games and has made 70.8% of his shots (34-for-48) over that span. Washington tends to be fairly permissive on defense, so Williams should be able to continue his high-scoring ways.
Not so good: Tony Wroten ($165,000), guard, Washington Huskies
In December, Wroten established himself as a fine scoring option for the Huskies. The freshman scored 20 points or more in four of the six games that month. He fell off a bit in January and February, but consistently scored in double digits, if not in the twenties (a figure he hit four more times). In March, Wroten has been as inconsistent as the weather. He has two 20-point games, including 22 points against Oregon in the NIT quarterfinals. The 6-foot-5 Seattle native has also been held to single digits three times. He did have 23 points against Duke at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 10, but he is too inconsistent to recommend.
Massachusetts vs. Stanford
Good: Chaz Williams ($213,000), guard, Massachusetts Minutemen
In going with two Williamses as my Good picks, I am taking the obvious. Sometimes you have to do that. The 5-foot-9 sophomore who transferred from Hofstra has been lighting up the NIT. He has scored at least 20 points in each game and provided a 28 in the opening round win over Mississippi State. The Minutemen have been the lower seed in each game and have been able to beat the Bulldogs, Seton Hall, and Drexel in order. Williams has played all of the available minutes and can score in a variety of ways. Stanford will have size advantages across the board, but they will have problems checking the speedy Williams.
Not so good: Josh Owens ($111,000), forward/center, Stanford Cardinal
Owens, a fifth year senior, should be able to take advantage of his 6-foot-8, 240 pound frame against the Minutemen. I know that Massachusetts has Sean Carter ($108,000) in the middle, but Carter will not be able to guard all of the Cardinal bigs. The problem for Owens is that his scoring has been highly inconsistent (like Wroten). He had 15 points in the quarterfinal win over Nevada, but it was just his second double-digit scoring game in his last six. Fouls are a problem for Owens and he has accrued at least three fouls in five of his last six games.