College Hoops: What Does Winning the NIT Mean?

Erin McLaughlinSenior Analyst IIMarch 20, 2009

NEW YORK - MARCH 11: Kyle McAlarney #23 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish shoots the ball against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 11, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

With all the attention on the "Big Dance," what does it mean to win in the NIT? It has long been regarded as the "Not In Tournament," and in many peoples' eyes it is meaningless.

Well, on Thursday I watched the game between Notre Dame and New Mexico and it was awesome. It was a real nail-biter in which the Irish came back from a six-point deficit with two minutes left. The game was decided on a last-second layup by Notre Dame.

I asked myself, "If this is meaningless, then why are they playing so hard?"

It is obvious that the tournament does have meaning for those who are involved. Unlike winning the NCAA tournament, winning the NIT has different meanings for the different teams.

For Notre Dame, it would show that it is still a really good team. The Irish had a disappointing season with a tough schedule. This is a way to show that they are better than the record would indicate.

For Kentucky, it would be redemption for a season that is well below standard for the Wildcats.

For Florida, it would be gravy for the two NCAA trophies in recent years and could be a springboard.

For schools like Creighton and Davidson, it would be a championship for a small school that had previously made noise in the "Big Dance" but was unable to win it all.

For traditional football powers like Miami, Penn State, and Virginia Tech, it is a chance to show that although the football team gets the attention, the hoops team is pretty good too. This could also be a springboard to bigger things for the program.

For smaller schools in general, their conferences usually don't get many at-large bids so the NIT may be the only tournament they have. Therefore, they want to win.

The NCAA is not the only tournament worth watching. The NIT is exciting as well.

If you don't believe me, just watch a couple of the games.