Starting in 1938, the National Invitational Tournament boasts something that the NCAA Tournament doesn’t have in its arsenal – age. Older by a scant year, the NIT can call itself the most tradition rich postseason basketball tournament in America.
That’s about it.
Used as a filler by ESPN to keep us wanting basketball before the real tournament tips a few days later, the NIT has gradually turned into the junior varsity tournament. More of an exhibition that a championship, the NIT acts as the warm-up act before the headliner takes center stage.
Right now the Maryland Terrapins look like your uncle Lenny’s house band. The Terps limp into the ACC Tournament off two bad conference losses and an overall record of 18-13. That’s not good enough to get a number one seed in the NIT. It doesn’t take a bracketologist to figure out that Maryland needs to win the conference tournament in Charlotte to even think about a postseason run in the NCAA’s.
Faltering down the stretch in four of its five last games, Maryland continues to put together a lethal combination of bad losses and inconsistent play. The goal of every college basketball team in late February and early March is very simple: impress the NCAA selection committee when they meet later this week at a hotel in Indianapolis.
There are two ways to make the NCAA Tournament – automatic bids and at-large teams. If your team wins its conference championship, it makes the final field of 65 teams. That’s the simple way to make sure you make the tournament. The remaining slots are left for at-large teams which are determined only by the selection committee. Usually making the right decisions, no team wants their fate left in the hands of university presidents and observers of the game.
Unless the Terps make an improbable run in the ACC Tournament, which they have pulled off in the last decade, don’t expect them to dance in the NCAA Tournament.
Anyone starting up an NIT pool?