NIT 2012 Bracket: Teams Looking Strong In Early Tournament Action

Ross DautelContributor IIIMarch 15, 2012

Joseph was a man on a mission for the Ducks
Joseph was a man on a mission for the DucksStephen Dunn/Getty Images

The spotlight of March may be on the NCAA Tournament but there is still quality basketball being played among the outcasts not invited to the Big Dance. Let's examine a few teams that have opened some eyes in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament.




Nevada may feel as if it was snubbed from the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday but that didn't put a damper on its mood heading into the NIT. The fifth seeded Pack pulled off an upset of fourth-seeded Oral Roberts in front of a hostile crowed in Tulsa.

Dario Hunt led the way for Nevada with 18 points and 10 rebounds while the teams scoring leader, Deonte Burton, chipped in another 17 points.

It was no easy task for Nevada to travel half way across the country and defeat a team that was in search of its first postseason win since 1975.

To the victors go the spoils and for the Wolf Pack, it means a second-round home game against Bucknell who is fresh off an upset of top seeded Arizona.




Speaking of Bucknell, the Bison pulled off an impressive first round upset of their own yesterday, beating No. 1 Arizona handily in Tucson. The Wildcats have been accustomed to playing their postseason basketball in the NCAA Tournament (28 all-time bids), and an appearance in the NIT may have caught them off-guard.

Bucknell took full advantage as Mike Muscala netted 20 points and pulled down nine boards to pave the way for the upset.

WASHINGTON - MARCH 17:  The Bucknell Bison react to their loss to the Connecticut Huskies during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Verizon Center on March 17, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

It's possible Arizona's lackluster performance can be attributed to its heartbreaking loss in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship, but the Bison took full advantage and now a date with No. 5 Nevada in Reno awaits on Sunday.



Illinois State

The Redbirds shot a blistering 63 percent from the field on their way to yet another early round upset in the NIT. Host Mississippi was able to force overtime in Oxford, but the Rebels never could quite get over Illinois State's deadly three-point shooting.

Junior Tyler Brown drained eight of his nine attempts from behind the arc while freshman Nic Moore was a perfect 6-6 for the Redbirds. In total, Illinois State hit 17-23 from downtown (73.9%) on its way to a 96-93 overtime victory.

The Redbirds reward is a trip to Palo Alto to take on No. 3 Stanford on Monday.




The Ducks squandered an opportunity to earn an invitation to the Big Dance by falling to eventual champion Colorado in the Pac 12 Tournament quarterfinal.

That didn't stop Oregon from looking like a tournament team throughout Wednesday's blowout win over LSU in Eugene.

Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph led the Ducks with 25 points on the way to a 20 point romp, 96-76. Oregon took a 17 point lead into the locker room at halftime and led by as many as 22 at one point in the contest.

Oregon will try and keep up its winning ways when No. 7 Iowa rolls into Matthew Knight Arena on Sunday.




The Dragons first round NIT performance was equally impressive as that of the Ducks as Drexel cruised to a 81-56 win over No. 6 UCF.

Frantz Massenat willed the motivated Dragons to victory with 18 points and 14 assists. Drexel, of course, still had the bitter taste in its mouth of being snubbed by the NCAA Tournament.

The Dragons clearly had a point to prove during Tuesday's contest, leading from start to finish. Perhaps more impressively, the Dragons led by as many as 28 over the hapless Knights.

Now winners of 20 of its last 21 contests, Drexel will look to keep the momentum going when Northern Iowa comes to Philadelphia.