Utah (PK) vs Western Kentucky
Utah and Western Kentucky have different philosophies when it comes to taking 3-pointers. The Utes have the 21st highest 3-point shot rate while Western Kentucky is 343rd. Though Utah shoots the higher percentage of the two, both are above the national average and have shown the tenancy to get hot at the right time.
Western Kentucky has a better rebound rate for the season than Utah, but the Utes do benefit from having a bit more height than the Hilltoppers. Utah also has a bit more depth in its bench than Western Kentucky, though the Hilltoppers do have five guys that average at least 11 points per game.
Western Kentucky is one of the best in the country at getting to the free-throw line while Utah does an above average job of not surrendering free throw attempts to opponents. Western Kentucky is the more efficient offensive team while Utah is slightly better on defense,
Peterson's pick: This game could come down to pace. It's typically easier to slow a team down than to speed one up and Utah plays at a much slower pace than Western Kentucky. As long at Utah hits its 3s, the Utes should advance to the NIT Finals.
Penn State (-2.5) vs Mississippi State
The Nittany Lions have been a different team since Josh Reaves returned in late January, going 11-5 including three wins over Ohio State and three wins in the NIT.
Penn State has been playing the NIT without starting forward Mike Watkins, but have gotten a nice jolt from John Harrar, who is averaging six rebounds per game off the bench.
Penn State has the better offensive and defensive efficiency numbers of the squads, though Mississippi State is not far behind on defense. The Nittany Lions' biggest weakness is allowing teams open looks from 3-point range, which will be aided by the Bulldogs being 327th nationally in 3-point shooting percentage.
Peterson's pick: Both these teams played well down the stretch of the season to get here, but Penn State has been playing the better of the two and should be able to win and cover against the Bulldogs