Why I Love the NIT

Tim PollockSenior Writer IMarch 26, 2009

LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 12:  Luke Harangody #44 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reacts during the Big East Conference game against the Louisville Cardinals on January 12, 2009 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

For some unknown reason, I have really taken to watching the NIT over the last few years, mostly because it’s an odd form of punishment, mixed with relishing in others’ pain, while the battle for 66th place rages on. 

Let me explain. 

First, it’s always fun to watch coaches eat their words, so take a bow, Seth Greenberg:  After moaning about your team’s absence in the NCAA tournament (again), you and your second-seeded Hokies got hammered 84-66 by Baylor in the second round.  You held the lead for exactly zero seconds in that game. 

Way to prove us all wrong, Coach; your contract extension is in the mail.

And here’s to you, Georgetown.  After convincing me that you were a good team in December, you went out in the first round and finished the year one game above .500. 

Bravo, and thanks for nothing.   

As for Kentucky, who doesn’t like seeing them lose?  Thank you, Billy Gillispie, for a great season of abrasive interviews with female reporters, constant reminders that you are a divorced man, and for your unabashed and blatant smugness.

Good luck enjoying a quiet meal in and around Lexington. 

Second, there is something fascinating about listening to commentators try to intelligently discuss teams they have clearly never covered. I’m sure some of this is not their fault, as they could be given last-minute assignments, but ask a few questions before you start talking to a nationally-televised audience. 

My favorite is Hubert Davis, who simply is not qualified to be the color man on a two-man crew.  Not only is he a bit clumsy and misinformed on players and coaches (and pronunciations of those players’ and coaches’ names), but he acts like he has never seen a slam dunk in his life.  Every time a guy throws one down, Davis turns into TNT’s Kevin Harlan, screaming and oohing-and-ahhing like he’s at an And-One dunk contest.

Calm down, Hubert:  You played in the League, man.   

Third, I get to pull for teams I am forced to hate all year long due to conference loyalty. I have never been a Notre Dame or Luke Harangody fan, but as soon as the bracket came out this year, I marked them as my champions. Note: This means I did actually take the time to print a bracket and fill it out.

All year long, the Gody’s flattop and odd jumper bothered me.  A lot.  But come National Invitation Tournament time, the flattop is back in style, and his jumper looks textbook.  Suddenly, Kyle McAlarney doesn’t look like the overweight point guard who only shoots threes.  Mike Brey’s mock turtlenecks are still ridiculous, but you can’t have everything, I guess.

St. Mary’s also falls into this category—if they make the Big Dance, another legit team (and by “legit,” I mean overrated SEC team that I’ll pick to go way too far in my bracket) gets knocked out, so I simply have to cheer for the Gaels to fail.  Again, though, come NIT time, Patty Mills’ comeback story and Australian background are dazzling! 

Fourth, not even ESPN cares, which is actually saying a lot, considering that they run mundane facts across the ticker throughout the entire day.  I am writing this on Thursday, March 26.  As of 4:27 PM, the Worldwide Leader’s online bracket still has not updated games that were played five days ago.  Well played, ESPN: Nothing says the 24-hour sports network like forgetting to take the painstaking time to type in Baylor’s six-letter name.   

Fifth, watching teams “celebrate” is always entertaining.  Congrats, Kansas State!  You just beat Illinois State, and now you are headed out West to play San Diego State. 

After Kentucky’s opening round, Patrick Patterson had to be thinking he didn’t sign up for this when told Creighton’s second round opponent was located in Nebraska.  I’m sure the Cats had a delightful time in Omaha.

Auburn, you hit the big time!  You know Tiger fans were fired up to see Tennessee-Martin and Tulsa as their first two opponents. That is serious competition. I’m told the combined attendance for those two games was 3,000.     

Print the T-shirts and pour the champagne!

Finally, if you think the NCAA Tournament seedings are off, take a look at the NIT brackets.  Figuring out this mess is like making sense of Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s speech.        

For example, Florida and South Carolina both play in the Eastern Division of the SEC.  Despite the fact that Florida finished 9-7 in-conference—behind the 10-6 co-champions of the East, South Carolina—the Gators earned a one seed and faced the worst team in the tournament, 18-14 Jacksonville, who got destroyed by anyone outside of the mediocre A-Sun.

Meanwhile, the Gamecocks ended up a three seed and drew Davidson, who was somehow seeded sixth—and just so happens to be roughly 90 minutes from Columbia, SC.  Kentucky, who also finished behind South Carolina, hosted a 9-7 MWC team in UNLV who had to travel across the entire country. Take a wild guess at whose game had more visiting fans.

Furthermore, 22-10 George Mason earned a seven seed, while middle-of-the-road teams like Nebraska, Northwestern, and Kentucky all get better seeds. 

Color me confused. 

So many more variables go into the crazy scheduling and matchups, but that would make for an entirely too long and boring article.  (Congrats for making it this far, by the way.)

While all of the teams in the NIT have faults, the two biggest head-scratchers for even being in the tournament were 17-15 Washington State and the aforementioned 18-14 Jacksonville.  

And now only four teams are left, with only one top seed still remaining, San Diego State. The remaining three teams headed to Madison Square Garden are Baylor, Notre Dame, and Penn State.  

Be sure to check ESPN sometime in May for the results.