College basketball’s second-biggest postseason tournament has a bracket (matchups in full below), as the National Invitational Tournament revealed its teams and schedule for 2017. The NIT, which tips off March 14 and ends March 30, mostly picks its 32 from among the teams that didn’t make the NCAA’s 68-team bracket.
Some teams won their regular season titles based on record, but lost in conference tournaments, which earned them automatic NIT bids. Those teams include Akron, Monmouth, Belmont, Oakland, South Dakota, and UNC Greensboro.
Others were at-large bids who missed the Big Dance. Syracuse, Illinois State, and March Madness’s other biggest snubs made it into the junior bracket, as did a few big-name schools, with Cal and Iowa joining as No. 1 seeds.
The format is a little different from the NCAA’s, in terms of locations. In the first three rounds, the home arenas of the teams with the higher seeds host. Once the NIT reaches the semifinals, the tournament moves to its traditional home, Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The Syracuse and Cal quadrants:
And the Illinois State and Iowa quadrants:
Cuse vs. UNC Greensboro is especially fun, as it calls to mind Jim Boeheim’s comments about the area just a few days earlier.
According to KenPom.com, Clemson and TCU have been the group’s best teams on the year.
2016’s winner was George Washington; St. John’s holds the all-time NIT titles record, with five (despite the Red Storm vacating their 2003 win); and, St. John’s is also first all-time in NIT appearances.
Many decades ago, the NIT was the bigger tourney, and even decided some ancient national titles, thanks partly to its association with NYC’s media exposure. By the 1970s, the NCAA had made its own tournament more and more prestigious and added a rule that required any NCAA-invited teams to either enter March Madness or skip the postseason.
Today, the NIT is the king of the consolation brackets (further down the list, there are also the CBI, CIT, and sometimes others), and its winner is popularly known as the 69th-best team in the country. Nice!
The NIT also serves as a rule experimentation zone: