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Way-Too-Early 2019 NIT Predictions

These are the Teams to Watch Next March

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The Dayton Flyers are an early favorite to win the 2019 NIT

The Dayton Flyers are an early favorite to win the 2019 NIT

The Dayton Flyers are an early favorite to win the 2019 NIT

Will Donnellon, NIT Expert

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Okay, okay, I know. This year’s NIT hasn’t even ended. So sue me. But I am already PUMPED for next year’s tournament, and I couldn’t help but start thinking about who the favorites will be to cut down the net in 2019.

 

The Favorites:

 

Dayton – The Flyers are coming off of a disappointing season in which they managed just 14 wins in a weak A-10 conference. However, there is considerable upside for the 2018-2019 season. Incoming Freshman Dwayne Cohill is set to have a big impact next year, which should be just enough to propel the Flyers to a 4th place finish in the A-10. I currently project them as a 2 or 3 seed in the NIT, but a strong performance could even see them earn a 1 seed.

 

Baylor – The Baylor program is still one marred by scandals dating back to the early 2000s, but has seen a resurgence in recent years. The Bears lost a heartbreaking second round matchup in this year’s NIT which surely left them with a bad taste in their mouths. They will look to rebound next year and finally bring home the coveted NIT Championship trophy.

 

Marquette – The Big East has slowly emerged as one of the most competitive conferences in college basketball, and Marquette placed within the top 9 in each of  the past 4 years under coach Steve Wojciechowski. That’s right. The guy from Apple. There is no doubt that I see the Golden Eagles as a team capable of making a deep tournament run. In the NIT, that is.

 

The Sleepers:

 

William & Mary – Every year, we hear the same old rhetoric about the Tribe. They’re too tall, too athletic, they shoot too well, and so on. I’m tired of it. A heartbreaking loss to Charleston in the CAA semifinals lit a fire in the belly of many in Williamsburg, so I would expect a team with lots of passion in 2019. My current projections have them falling again to Charleston in the CAA championship, but it should be enough for them to squeak past the NIT bubble. Once they are in the tournament, they will be a team that nobody will want to face.

 

Florida Gulf Coast – Two words: Dunk. City. FGCU is a tried and true tournament team, and I have them reaching the final four in many of my latest projections. Lack of brand-name notoriety should see them slip to a low seed for the second year in a row, but this is another team that nobody will want to play. Sophomore guard Christian Carlyle shot a team-best 47.4% from 3-point range in 2018, and showed significant signs of improvement in his ball handling and passing ability as the season progressed. Carlyle is a dark horse candidate for 2019 NIT MVP.

 

Radford – The Highlanders won the 2018 Big South tournament in dramatic fashion, clinching their spot in the Big Dance with a long buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Radford is a program on the rise, but Liberty’s plethora of returning starters makes it the clear favorite in the Big South. That being said, Radford should put together a season worthy of an NIT bid. At that point, the Highlanders will need to rely on senior John Caldwell to carry them. If Caldwell is at his best, there is no reason Radford couldn’t find themselves competing for a championship

 

It may seem like a long time, but the 2019 NIT is just months away. 12 months, to be exact. It’s never too early to start preparing, especially if you want to win big in your office pool. Next season, maybe this will remind you to tune in to the occasional Radford game. If that is the case, I will have done my job.

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