George Washington (26-10) vs San Diego State (28-9)
When: Tuesday, March 29th 2016
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Time: 9:30 ET | TV: ESPN
The George Washington Colonials meet the San Diego State Aztecs in the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament from Madison Square Garden in New York. The Colonials started out by edging Hofstra 82-80 at home then went on the road to defeat upstart Monmouth 87-71. George Washington then got the benefit of playing a lower seed at home and defeated Florida out of the SEC to advance to New York. The Colonials are averaging 83.7 points a game in this tournament led by a strong front-court. Tyler Cavanaugh made four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points while combining with Kevin Larsen to limit Florida big man Dorian Finney-Smith to nine points in last Wednesday’s 82-77 win over the Gators. Cavanaugh is averaging 21.7 points in the NIT on 54.1% shooting along with 9.3 rebounds. George Washington can tie the 2005-06 team for the most wins in school history with a victory over San Diego State. Forward Patricio Garino is shooting 43.3% from 3-point range but faces an Aztecs team that ranks among the nation’s best in defending the three.
The Aztecs have had an easier road to New York as they have won their three games by a combined 55 points – all at home. The Aztecs just missed out on the Big Dance by losing the Mountain West Conference Tournament finals to Fresno State, but have not let that slow them down. They’ve wiped IPFW, Washington, and Georgia Tech most recently. Winston Shepard is averaging 14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists over the past seven games for the Aztecs, who held Georgia Tech to 33.3% shooting in the second half of last Wednesday’s 72-56 win. The Aztecs hold opponents to a 60.5 points a game and smothered the Yellow Jackets led by guard Dakarai Allen, who helped limit star Adam Smith to six points. Malik Pope is averaging 13.6 points and 7.6 rebounds in his last eight games for the Aztecs, who have allowed 70 or fewer points in 12 of their last 13 games. Trey Kell (12.7 points) led the Aztecs with 18 points on Wednesday and is averaging 17 in his last two games.
San Diego State is going to be too strong athletically for George Washington to handle. The Colonials might keep it interesting for a while, but the Aztecs pull away in the second half.
Pick: San Diego State -3