When doing NIT Bracketology we’ve reached a point where there are too many good teams to squeeze into too few slots. Considering there are deserving mid-majors that want to play in the NIT (like Wagner, Princeton, Illinois State, Northern Iowa, etc.) and a number of major conference teams (like Mississippi State, Illinois, Pittsburgh) that really struggled down the stretch it’s tough to project exactly what will happen.
How will the committee treat a team like the Fighting Illini? They’ve fired their coach, are 2-11 in their last 13 games and basically seem to have given up on the season. Why should they get a bid? In this latest version of my NIT bracket they don’t. Similarly, Pittsburgh is 2-6 in their last 8 games. The two wins are over St. John’s. The Panthers are also out of this latest bracket. Mississippi State is also 2-6 in their last 8, but the Bulldogs started from a much stronger position than either Pittsburgh or Illinois. Still, if this team — which once looked like an NCAA lock — decides not to play, it could open up an opportunity for a team that wants the bid.
What if these teams are left out of the field? Well, it opens up opportunities for teams that are playing well right now. For instance, Iowa and Minnesota have been fighting lately. Also, in Atlantic City on Friday St. Bonaventure and Massachusetts both showed why the Atlantic 10 could wind up getting four bids to the NIT. Likewise, Arizona is closing strong in the Pac-12 (and, like the A-10 teams, still could steal an NCAA bid). All of this adds up to a bottom of the bracket that is in absolute flux. Any school in the six and seven seed lines is vulnerable and certainly on the bubble. I’m getting a sneaking suspicion though that the Missouri Valley and Ivy League are going to figure out a way to slip a team in. That’s reflected here though the team (Northern Iowa vs. Illinois State, Princeton vs. Penn) is a little uncertain.
Today is a big day for the NIT bubblers. Tournament finals in the MAC, SWAC, Big West and America East could add as many as four automatic bids to the bracket. Of course I’ll have a full update on Sunday before the brackets are revealed. If you’re curious where you’re non-NIT bound team might be heading be sure to check out the CBI/CIT tracking page. That’ll be updated through the brackets’ release on Selection Sunday.
Note for the top of the bracket: I’ve changed my mind again and Northwestern and Seton Hall are into the NCAA tournament again. Iona’s the loser from that situation. I just don’t see how the Gaels are going to make the NCAAs with two losses with RPI greater than 200. Also, South Florida was the big loser from Cal losing out on the Pac-12′s auto-bid late Friday night. Arizona is holding that spot for now.
Note for the bottom of the bracket: Nevada’s loss in the WAC semifinals screwed up all sorts of things. The Wolfpack have been inserted in the four seed they probably deserve, though I could see the committee flipping Stanford and Nevada in a heartbeat. That ultimately trickled down and kicked Wagner out of the bottom of the bracket. Poor Seahawks.
3. Middle Tennessee State
2. Saint Joseph’s
2. Oral Roberts
1. Ole Miss
8. Savannah State
3. Mississippi State
6. St. Bonaventure
7. Illinois State
1. South Florida
2. Miami (FL)