The NIT championship game on Thursday night pits Valparaiso against George Washington under Madison Square Garden's bright lights in New York. The two teams have put together impressive postseason runs after missing out – in one case, quite narrowly – on at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.
It's easy not to pay attention to the NIT with the Final Four coming up in a few days, but this actually shapes up looking like a very good game between two eminently watchable teams. Valparaiso has an elite defense, ranked sixth in the country in adjusted efficiency. And George Washington has a top-30 offense, setting up a fun back-and-forth on a big stage.
The Crusaders are slim favorites. Their defense is probably the biggest reason why, but they've got another great thing going for them: junior forward Alec Peters, who's one of the best players in the country a ton of people don't know about. Peters is a 6'8 power forward, but he can play like a center or a guard depending on the moment. He shoots 44.5 percent on three-pointers, averages 18.4 points per game and grabs 8.4 rebounds. He's dominant.
George Washington is a likable bunch, too. Upon taking the job there in 2011, head coach Mike Lonergan set about on an interesting team-building path. He sold the university's international reputation to foreign recruits who had come to U.S. high schools, and now three of the Colonials' top players are Danish center Kevin Larsen, Argentine wing Patricio Garino and Japanese forward Yuta Watanabe, whose countrymen call him "The Chosen One."
You can stream the game on WatchESPN. Here's full viewing information:
Who: No. 1 Valparaiso Crusaders vs. No. 4 George Washington Colonials
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
When: 7 p.m. ET
TV channel: ESPN