The NIT Final features a Conference USA rematch of the UAB Blazers and North Texas Mean Green playing against each other for the fourth time this season.
UAB Blazers (-1.5, 127) and North Texas Mean Green
These two teams play at completely different paces with UAB ranking 19th in the nation in possessions per game while North Texas plays at a rate of more than a full possession per game slower than any other college basketball team in the nation.
North Texas won two of the first three meetings, but in the first meeting, Jordan “Jelly” Walker, who ranks fifth among Division I teams in points per game with 22.3 points and 4.0 assists per game, was sidelined when the Mean Green won 63-52.
North Texas is the more efficient defense, ranking ninth in the nation in points allowed per possession while UAB ranks 45th in this category. The Blazers are the better offense, however, ranking 30th in points scored per possession in games played on the road.
In the other two matchups, UAB scored 79 and 76 points respectively, which are the only two games all season in which North Texas allowed more than 72 points this season. The 79-point game was 62-62 at the end of regulation before North Texas walked away with an 82-79 home victory.
Unlike the first three showdowns, North Texas’ starting forward Abou Ousmane will be out of the fold, which will be a big loss as he’s averaging 11.1 points and team-high 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game this season.
Ousmane is a huge reason North Texas ranks 42nd among the 363 Division I teams in rebound rate and grabs rebounds on 31.3% of missed shots. In comparison, UAB ranks 21st in overall rebound rate and ninth in offensive rebound rate, getting a rebound on 34.6% of its missed shots.
With North Texas shorthanded and UAB entering Thursday night playing some of its best defense of the season and surrendering fewer than 70 points in five of its last seven games, the season series will be evened out and it’ll get the NIT title.
The Play: UAB -1.5
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