More NIT-picking

By - February 16, 2007

I have a hard time rationalizing my feelings for the NIT. On the one hand I've always been the kind of guy that enjoys the chance to watch teams from outside the top 25. For instance this Saturday you may just find me at the Hofstra-Holy Cross game, a former co-worker and avid reader of "The Max" Dan Moffitt instant messaged me this afternoon saying that he might be going and now I find myself considering a trip to the island myself. Sure, I could stay home and watch North Carolina-Boston College or UCLA-Arizona but those are teams I get to see all the time. It's rare; on the other hand that Ralph Willard's flaxen locks make their way across my television screen.

In that respect it seems to me there's real value in this other March tournament, so why does the NIT more often then not feel like a girlfriend you break up with but keeps hanging around and won't stop emailing you. Presumably at some point in say the 1950's or 1960's the NCAA and NIT tournaments battled it out to see which would be the true championship of college basketball. If you haven't caught on yet the NCAA won but there's the NIT still hanging around. You see her at parties and she's fun to hang out with when the girl you really like isn't around but you know it won't last. She's good for a one night stand (i.e. the 2000 NIT game between Georgetown and Virginia won by the Hoya's in triple overtime) but then the real women of your dreams walks in the room and all bets are off. Eventually the emails taper off and maybe you start to feel a little bit of regret but only because she offered the physical intimacy without the emotional risks and.....okay so maybe I've taken this analogy too far but you get the point.

I got a lot of positive responses from my first stab at picking this years NIT field. By "positive response" I mean that the aforementioned Dan Moffitt liked it and he seems to be the only person reading so at least you can't accuse me of not knowing my audience.

The Mediocre Region

Delaware State (8) at Old Dominion (1) - The MEAC is up for grabs this season and though the Hornets will win the regular season title they'll fall to perennial power Hampton in the conference tournament. The Monarchs await in the first round as the last CAA team out of the big dance.

Central Florida (5) at California (4) - Conference USA is going to struggle to get more then one team into the tournament. Memphis currently has an RPI of nine and Houston is the team with the second highest RPI at 91. Central Florida comes in at 116 and make the NIT on a solid overall and conference record.

Wichita State (6) at Oklahoma (3) - Remember earlier this season when the Wheat Shockers were the toast of the town after wins over LSU and Syracuse? Well, now those victories don't look so good and their 8-10 record since starting out 8-0 will consign them to a road NIT game.

Colorado State (7) at Texas Tech (2) - Save a run in their conference tournament there just aren't enough big wins left on the Red Raiders schedule to vault them into the tournament. They'll host Jason Smith and Colorado State in Dale Layers last game as Rams head coach.

The Pedestrian Region

Texas A&M-CC (8) at Georgia (1) - The Islanders will win their conference but inexperience will keep them from doing the same in their conference tournament and securing the auto bid out of the Southland.

Houston (5) at Providence (4) - As the number two team in C-USA the Cougars are in but face a tough Providence team at the DD Center and as we all know the Friars run on Dunkin.

Northern Iowa (6) at Michigan (3) - Tommy Amaker bids adieu to Ann Arbor with a loss to the Panthers.

Santa Clara (7) at Mississippi (2) - The Rebels may very well be SEC West champions when all is said and done but it doesn't look like it will get them into the tournament. Santa Clara looks like they might be primed to end Gonzaga's run in the WCC but I'm betting on the Bulldogs to come through in the end.

The Middling Region

Appalachian State (8) at Illinois (1) - Appalachian State gets in as regular season champs of the Southern Conference. Illinois gets in because there just aren't enough RPI boosting games on their schedule.

Drexel (5) at Dayton (4) - The home of the play-in game will also play host to the NIT.

Rice (6) at Nebraska (3) - Morris Almond is a great pure scorer and a possible first round draft pick.

Austin Peay (7) at Bradley (2) - Last year the Braves were playing on the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. This year they'll have to settle for the second Wednesday of the NIT.

Run-of-the-mill region

Jackson State (8) at Syracuse (1) - The Orange are one of two perennial Big East powers that find themselves not in the tournament.

New Mexico State (5) at Hofstra (4) - Reggie Theus makes his first post season appearance as coach of the Aggies. As long as he keeps snagging transfers like Tyrone Nelson and Justin Hawkins it won't be his last.

Utah State (6) at Connecticut (3) - The Huskies "throw it around the perimeter for 35 seconds, contested three-pointer offense" will find them staring Stew Morrill in the face come March.

St. Joseph's (7) at Arkansas (2) - Arkansas is just 4-7 in the weak SEC West but their tournament hopes seem to still be alive. Bad losses to LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina may doom them.

Posted by at 05:34 PM on February 16, 2007
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