Alabama and Wichita State may not have made the field of 68 in the NCAA Tournament, but they can boast something that all but four other teams can not: they're still playing basketball.
The top-seeded Crimson Tide and the fourth-seeded Shockers will cap off one national tournament on Thursday night when both meet in the 2011 National Invitation Tournament championship game at 7 p.m. EDT at Madison Square Garden (ESPN).
Wichita State (33-9) is in the midst of a historic season in which it has won a school-record 28 games in the regular season. The Shockers, who are 7-11 all-time in the NIT, have displaced Nebraska (76-49), Virginia Tech (79-76 OT), College of Charleston (82-75) and Washington State (75-44) en route to the NIT title game.
All throughout, the Shockers have been led by J.T. Durley, who is the only player on the team to average double-digit scoring (11.2 points). Despite the lack of star power, Wichita State averaged 72.9 points per game while holding opponents to 61.8 points per contest.
Alabama (30-12) was on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament,and was ultimately excluded from the Big Dance. In response, the Crimson Tide have rolled through the competition. 'Bama has topped Coastal Carolina (68-44), New Mexico (74-67), Miami, FL (79-64) and Colorado (62-61) to get to the championship game.
JaMychal Green leads the Crimson Tide in scoring, averaging 15.6 points, and is first in rebounding (7.6 RPG). Tony Mitchell is close behind, averaging 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds for Alabama.
While the Crimson Tide boast a No. 1 seed, The Sports Network predicts that the Shockers' will shock Alabama to win the 2011 NIT.
After seeing how easily Wichita State dismantled Washington State on Tuesday, it is hard to imagine the Shockers falling in this title game. Alabama is a worthy opponent, but the Tide will come up short.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wichita State 68, Alabama 63