UC IRVINE at NORTH DAKOTA, Wednesday, 6 p.m. MST
BETTING LINE: UC Irvine -4.5
KENPOM GIVES UC Irvine a 63 percent chance to win
CAN YOU WATCH? There should be a live stream here
WINNER GETS Depends. The CollegeInsider tournament, as its site notes, “uses the old NIT model in which there is no set bracket. Future round opponents are determined by the results of the previous round.”
HOW WE GOT HERE: UC Irvine, the No. 2 seed in the Big West tournament, was upset by third-seeded Long Beach State 77-72 in the semifinals. North Dakota was knocked off the semis of the Big Sky 83-78 in overtime by Weber State.
PREVIEWING THE GAME: Great news for North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks are hosting a postseason game as a Division I basketball program for the first time.
Bad news for North Dakota. The Hawks make the CollegeInsider.com tournament and are pitted against UC Irvine, a 25-win team ranked No. 94 by KenPom and No. 75 in the RPI.
Mamadou Ndiaye is 7 foot 6 and the anchor of the Anteaters’ defense that is 58th in the country holding teams to .970 points per possession.
UC Irvine, though, is much more than Ndiaye. He’s the team’s second-leading scorer and plays under 24 minutes a night. The Anteaters dip deep into their bench with 10 guys averaging at least 10 minutes. Certainly, Ndiaye is impactful. His production — 12.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.47 bpg, 66.5 percent shooting — is downright impressive considering how much time he spends resting.
In light of Ndiaye’s size and strengths, Irvine doesn’t play fast, ranking 219th in adjusted tempo. So expect North Dakota, hopefully in front of a big crowd, to try and ratchet up the intensity and speed of the game.
That’s how Quinton Hooker, Drick Bernstine and Geno Crandall have the best shot at pulling off what would arguably be their best win of the season.
College Basketball Invitational
PEPPERDINE at EASTERN WASHINGTON, 7:05 P.M. MST
BETTING LINE: Even
KENPOM GIVES Eastern a 51 percent chance to win
CAN YOU WATCH? Yep, on Eversport
WINNER GETS The winner of Nevada/Montana
HOW WE GOT HERE: Pepperdine lost to Saint Mary’s 81-66 in the West Coast Conference semifinals. Eastern Washington dropped out of the Big Sky tournament in the quarterfinals, falling to Idaho 77-73.
PREVIEWING THE GAME: One more chance to watch Eastern’s Venky Jois and Austin McBroom? Heck, yeah, I’m in.
Those two, actually, will need to play well if the Eagles are going to win this game. Pepperdine beat Montana back in November 69-63 and also has wins against Saint Mary’s (twice) and BYU. This game is particularly important to the Waves program. Fifth-year head coach Marty Wilson and his team can surpass their win total of 18 from a season ago, the most victories Pepperdine would have in a single season since 2002.
The guy to watch for the Waves is junior Lamond Murray Jr.. He was an All-WCC second-team selection and averaged 17.3 points a game in league play. That’s after putting up just under seven points a game as a sophomore.
Pace will be an important facet of this game. Pepperdine is 209th in the country in adjusted tempo and Eastern is 118th. The Eagles don’t want to be forced to match up with the Waves in a half-court battle.
IDAHO at SEATTLE, Wednesday, 8 p.m. MST
BETTING LINE: Idaho -2
KENPOM GIVES Idaho a 55 percent chance to win
CAN YOU WATCH? Yep, on the WAC Digital Network
WINNER GETS Winner of Vermont/Western Carolina
HOW WE GOT HERE: Idaho lost to Montana 81-72 in the Big Sky semifinals. Seattle dropped a 72-47 decision to CSU Bakersfield in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference.
PREVIEWING THE GAME: Idaho is the lone Big Sky Conference team favored to win this week. Seattle is two games below .500, went 7-7 in the WAC and possesses one of the least productive offenses in the country. The Redhawks No. 324 in offensive points per possession (.938).
The Vandals, as we know, are very good defensively and will make life tough for the 'Hawks, who are led by junior guard Brendan Westendorf — the lone player on the team to average double digits (13.0 ppg) in points.
Idaho isn’t elite on offense, either, but Victor Sanders and company should have the firepower to win on the road if they can do one thing: defensive rebound. Seattle is shooting 45 percent from 2-point range (310th in the country) and 35.3 percent from 3 (143rd in the country), but those poor shooting percentages are somewhat offset by a 32.5 percent offensive rebounding rate (81st in the country).
MONTANA at NEVADA, 8 p.m. MST
BETTING LINE: Nevada -4.5
KENPOM GIVES Nevada a 66 percent chance to win
WINNER GETS Winner of Eastern Washington/Pepperdine
HOW WE GOT HERE: Nevada lost 67-55 to San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference semifinals. Montana dropped a a 62-59 thriller to Weber State in the Big Sky Conference title game.
PREVIEWING THE GAME: Nevada is in the midst of its best season since joining the Mountain West Conference four years ago. The program’s 19 wins is 10 more than a season ago and marks one of the biggest turnarounds in the country.
The Wolf Pack, who played the 119th toughest schedule in college basketball according to KenPom.com, beat Montana State (83-62) and Portland State (76-73) during nonconference play and have solid wins against UNLV, Utah State, Fresno State and Colorado State.
Nevada’s greatest strength is its defense where it ranked second in Mountain West Conference action, holding teams to .972 points per possession and an effective field goal percentage of 46 percent.
The Wolf Pack have had to be stingy defensively. They’ve lacked offensive firepower. They’re the worst — No. 351 — 3-point shooting team in the country. It’s forced Nevada to structure its offense around pounding it inside the paint with the likes of senior Marqueze Coleman (15.9 ppg), junior DJ Fenner (12.9 ppg), freshman Oliver Cameron (12.4 ppg) and senior Tyron Criswell (12.2 ppg).
— Kyle Franko