The NIT Season Tip-Off championship is up for grabs in Madison Square Garden on Friday, as the fourth-ranked Michigan Wolverines square off with the Kansas State Wildcats.
John Beilein's Wolverines opened the 2012-13 season with a great deal of optimism. Michigan has done little to squelch that, as the team has started off the season 4-0. The Wolverines opened the year with three straight games at home, routing the likes of Slippery Rock (100-62), IUPUI (91-54) and Cleveland State (77-47). Things weren't as easy in Wednesday's semifinal action of this event, as the Wolverines slipped past Pittsburgh, 67-62.
Bruce Weber's first season in Manhattan couldn't have started any better, as the Wildcats have opened the season with five straight victories. Following a similar path, Kansas State opened the year with four straight lopsided wins at home over North Dakota (85-52), Lamar (79-55), Alabama-Huntsville (87-26) and North Florida (74-55). Things got tougher in the Big Apple on Wednesday, but the Wildcats were able to advance to the title game with a 66-63 win over Delaware.
These two teams are meeting for the fourth time and all four meetings have taken place in tournament play. Michigan holds a 2-1 series advantage.
Will Spradling took care of business down the stretch, draining four free- throws to secure the three-point win over Delaware and propel the Wildcats into the championship game. The junior guard finished the game with 12 points, as did Thomas Gipson and Angel Rodriguez.
It certainly wasn't the best offensive performance by Kansas State this season, as the team comes into this game averaging a strong 78.2 ppg. Where the team has really had success was on the glass, grabbing 47.2 caroms per game and holding a +15.4 rebounding advantage. Despite averaging just under 80 points per game, there aren't any prolific scorers on the roster. Rodriguez and Rodney McGruder are the only players with a double-digit scoring averages at this time, coming in at 11.2 and 10.0 points per game, respectively.
The Wolverines trailed at the half against Pittsburgh, falling victim to the Panthers' strong shooting in the first half (.519). Michigan tightened up the defense after the break though and made timely shots en route to the victory. Trey Burke played a big role in the win, pacing the team with 17 points, while doling out six assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. was right behind with 16 points, while Nik Stauskas came off the bench to tally 15.
The Wolverines have excelled at both ends of the court through five games, averaging 83.8 ppg, while limiting the opposition to just 56.2. Michigan has shot the ball well from all over the court, converting 53.9 percent from the floor overall, including a scorching 45.7 percent from 3-point range. The scoring pool is deep with four players currently averaging double figures, led by Burke's 18.0 ppg. Hardaway is a close second at 17.0 ppg, followed by Glenn Robinson III's 13.3 ppg. Stauskas has been a key contributor off the bench with 12.0 ppg.