Colorado expected to be playing at New Mexico in the second round of the NIT but instead they are hosting upstart Utah Valley on Sunday night in Boulder, Colo.
The Wolverines (26-8) pulled off an impressive upset of the second-seeded Lobos, 83-69, on Wednesday night to set up a matchup with Colorado. Utah Valley won’t be intimidated by the altitude or the venue, either; the Wolverines have gone 11-5 on the road this season.
If Justin Harmon can repeat his performance from the first round of the NIT then Utah Valley has a chance to keep its season going. Harmon had a career-high 32 points in the win over New Mexico and earned the praise of head coach Mark Madsen.
“I was really proud of Justin Harmon,” Madsen said. “Ever since he’s come to campus, the wins have been stacking up for us. He’s a winner and came out (Wednesday night) locked in. He brings our team a Chicago toughness.”
The third-seeded Buffaloes (18-16) have put a disappointing regular season behind them and are focusing on a run in the NIT. They started with a 65-64 win over Seton Hall on Tuesday night that came down to a defensive stop in the final moments.
Julian Hammond III scored the winning points on a layup with 20 seconds left off a slick feed from Jalen Gabbidon, a graduate transfer from Yale. Gabbidon has shaken off various injuries in his lone season with Colorado to keep his last year of eligibility going.
He is determined to get the most out of his final college games.
“This is it. I’m going to put everything out there. If I have a rough shooting day, so be it,” Gabbidon said. “I’m going to do everything I can with the time on the floor — grabbing boards, playing defense, trying to get other guys shots. Just doing anything I can to win games. That’s all that matters.”
The winner of Sunday night’s matchup will play fourth-seeded Cincinnati in the quarterfinals and be a victory away from advancing to Las Vegas for the NIT semifinals.