At the beginning of the season, the Valparaiso Crusaders were a team that I expected would make the 2016 NCAA tournament with relative ease. Arguably one of the most talented mid-major rosters in college basketball, Valpo fell victim to one of the cruelest aspects of college basketball – losing in the conference tournament and missing out on the Big Dance.
Despite the disappointment, the Crusaders have bounced back and performed extremely well in the NIT, defeating the Florida State Seminoles, St. Mary’s Gaels and BYU Cougars en route to a berth in the NIT championship game against the George Washington Colonials, which will be on ESPN at 6:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 31.
The Colonials, however, will be more than ready to meet the Crusaders.
George Washington had a good season, but their inability to defend against the better teams in the A-10 led to their exclusion from the NCAA tournament and a berth as a No. 4 seed in the NIT. Since the start of the NIT, something has clicked on for the Colonials. GW has beaten much better opponents than Valparaiso on the way to the championship game, including the Hofstra Pride, Monmouth Hawks, San Diego State Aztecs and Florida Gators.
At first glance, I would pick Valparaiso to defeat the highly inconsistent Colonials. However, George Washington has beaten two stout defensive teams in a row, and there may not be a hotter team in college basketball – outside of the Syracuse Orange.
George Washington wins behind yet another amazing scoring performance by Tyler Cavanaugh.