The NIT Tournament may not feature the top teams in the country, but some of the best college players in America will take part.
When broaching this subject, there’s no escaping Kentucky and the collection of talent present on John Calipari’s roster. The Wildcats’ coach is a recruiting magician who has at least three NBA players in this group, and that’s being timid.
Then there are quite a few major-conference teams that feature prime national talent: Virginia’s Joe Harris, Tennessee’s Jordan McRae to name a couple. They didn’t make the final list of best players in the tournament, but they’re certainly worth an honorable mention.
Which players are tops in this year’s NIT field? Take a look.
Archie Goodwin, Alex Polythress, and Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Based on pure talent alone, these three future NBA first-rounders should be able to carry Big Blue to a MSG berth. If only it were that simple, Kentucky would be in the NCAAs. But I digress.
The Wildcats were on the right side of the bubble until it all fell apart at the SEC Tournament, where the Wildcats failed to show up in a 64-48 loss to Vanderbilt.
If these three take a glass-half-full approach, they’ll realize that they can still keep this season from being a total failure by annihilating the NIT field. All the while, they can help their NBA stocks with a barnstorming tour than takes them to New York City.
Alex Len, Maryland
Currently, the Maryland big man sits on the inside of most prognosticators’ draft lotteries, but without an NCAA Tournament spotlight will likely drop a few spots.
What would captivate NBA scouts more than a dominant NIT run? Len has shown flashes of consistent brilliance inside, most notably his 19-point, nine-rebound effort against Duke or his 23-point, 12-rebound against fellow NIT entry Kentucky.
The NIT could be a coming-out party for Len, or it will merely be another missed opportunity to add to his resume.
Dwayne Davis, Southern Miss
I like Southern Miss to win this tournament, and Davis is the fearless driver of the fine-tuned Eagles.
Boy, can Davis shoot it. The C-USA Newcomer of the Year has been riding a hot hand, averaging close to 25 points in his last five games.
Not to mention, he’s as streaky as they come. The Eagles’ guard had been shooting 60 percent before a clunker in the C-USA finals against Memphis.
Considering he had been averaging only 15.6 points per game prior to this hot streak, Davis will take the team as far as he wills them. It would be one of the best stories of the NIT.
Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow his sports musings and random life observations on Twitter.