Both teams have apparently saved their best for the NIT as Stanford has reeled off four consecutive wins, while the Hurricanes have won four straight and seven of their last 8 overall. My math model favors Stanford by 1.5-point so the line is fair (caveat: see injury report below), but the Cardinal are a money-burning 5-11 ATS in their last sixteen games overall and 0-4 ATS in their last four contests against ACC opposition.
While Stanford has struggled to meet the betting market’s expectations, the Hurricanes have covered the Vegas number in three straight games and five of the last 8 overall. The concern, of course, is that many of those wins came against subpar opposition like Virginia Tech (twice) and North Carolina Central.
Miami is averaging 68.3 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 64.9 points per game, thereby making the Hurricanes 3.4 points per game better than average offensively. Interestingly, the Hurricanes are 13-6 SU and 12-7 ATS on the road this season where they are averaging 69.3 points per game, including shooting 38.2% from beyond the arc.
I also like the fact that Miami is ranked 22nd in the nation in free-throw percentage (74.7%) and is making 79.3% of its foul shots over the last five games. The Hurricanes also take excellent care of the basketball, ranking 13th in the country with just 10.1 turnovers per game.
Miami is 4.7 points per game better than average defensively this season (63.2 points per game to teams that would combine to average 67.9 points per game), and has been just as good on the road where the Hurricanes are yielding 63.8 points per game. The Hurricanes also play outstanding defense without committing fouls, ranking 20th nationally with just 13.0 personal fouls per game.
Stanford is averaging 72.5 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 66.1 points per game, thereby making the Cardinal 6.4 points per game better than average offensively this season. The problem for the Cardinal has been on the road where they are 7-10 SU and 6-11 ATS this season, including losing its last five true road games.
In fact, Stanford dropped road games against Washington State (89-88), Colorado (64-58) and Arizona State (67-62), while also getting destroyed by Arizona on March 7 (91-69). And, the Cardinal have enjoyed home-cooking throughout the NIT except for their quarterfinal matchup against Old Dominion. Stanford is reliable at the foul line, making 72.7% of its free-throw attempts, including 74.2% on the road.
The difference in the NIT Championship game could come down to which team makes it to the foul line the most. And, based upon the statistics outlined above, Miami should have the opportunity to convert more free throws as the Cardinal rank 49th in the country with 16.0 personal fouls per game. Miami is also much better on the road and stand at 11-4 ATS on the road following one or more consecutive wins and 16-6 ATS off a close win by three points or less.
Miami Florida Injuries:
In the opening paragraph I stated that the point spread was fair in this game, but the Vegas number does not take into account the fact that Miami point guard and second-leading scorer Angel Rodriguez is out tonight (injured wrist). Rodriguez averages 11.9 points per game and owns a team-best 3.9 assists per game this season, and his absence is a significant blow to Miami’s NIT championship hopes.
Equally problematic is the absence of third-leading scorer Tonye Jekiri, who sustained a concussion in the opening minutes of the NIT semifinal game against Temple and never returned. The 7-foot center also leads the team with 9.9 rebounds per game, and his loss will be difficult to overcome for a team that already struggles to rebound. With both Rodriguez and Jekiri out tonight, Miami is simply outmanned at the point and under the glass.