While most college basketball fans are focused on the NCAA tournament at this point in the year, there are still a lot of very good teams in the National Invitation Tournament.
The NIT is usually a great opportunity for younger teams to get some extra postseason experience before breaking out the next season. Of course, many times it features veteran clubs looking to lose as quickly as possible after a disappointing year.
With a few March Madness snubs and a bunch of regular season conference champions, there will definitely be some exciting basketball. Here are predictions for every first-round game in the tournament.
Printable bracket can be found here, courtesy of the official NIT website.
No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Robert Morris
Despite the fact that Kentucky is the No. 1 overall seed in this tournament, the squad is forced to play a road game in the first round against Robert Morris, according to Craig Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Wildcats' home arena is being used for NCAA tournament games, so this battle will be held at the Sewell Center on the Robert Morris campus. Any fan of the Colonial past or present should be at this game and ready to cheer loudly for the home squad.
Kentucky already had problems getting prepared for weaker opponents (see: losses to Vanderbilt, Georgia and Arkansas). Now that the season is basically over, look for this squad to roll over against a solid team that will be trying much harder to win.
Court-storming is rare in the NIT, but it would be allowed after this upset.
No. 4 Providence vs. No. 5 Charlotte
Charlotte had a few good victories this season in the Atlantic 10, including a win at Butler, but more often the 49ers tightened up against good teams.
They had eight losses this season by 15 points or more.
While Providence is far from a perfect team, this is a squad that fought hard in the deep Big East conference and was playing well toward the end of the season. Junior Bryce Cotton led his conference in scoring at 19.4 points per game and will look to make a name for himself before his final year in college.
No. 3 Arizona State vs. No. 6 Detroit
Detroit had one of the final at-large bids in this tournament, and it was a curious selection based on the profile. However, the committee must know that this is a fun team to watch.
The Titans are in the top 10 in the country in scoring and feature high-flyer Doug Anderson, who can seemingly float in mid-air while dunking.
Then again, Arizona State can bring some excitement with 5'10" freshman Jahii Carson lighting up the scoreboard.
This should be a back-and-forth battle, but the Sun Devils have enough talent to pull out a win.
No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 7 Long Beach State
It will be interesting to see how Baylor reacts to the NIT appearance. The Bears were playing their best basketball at the end of the year with a blowout win over Kansas and a narrow loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament.
However, Pierre Jackson is a senior and Isaiah Austin is likely on his way to the NBA, and many times this leads to a lack of effort in the second-tier tournament.
Baylor is easily better than Long Beach State and should get the win in this one, but it is tough to expect a deep run from this squad.
No. 1 Southern Miss vs. No. 8 Charleston Southern
Charleston Southern received an at-large bid to this tournament due to its regular-season title in the Big South. Of course, the Buccaneers did not have too much of a better year than 15-20 Liberty who stole the conference's automatic NCAA tournament bid.
Southern Miss was one of the final teams out of the Big Dance, and it is likely that the Golden Eagles take the snub personally.
With one of the more efficient offenses in the country, the top seed should advance at home at least to the second round.
No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 5 Louisiana Tech
Florida State seems to have gone through the motions all season. The squad had a couple of good wins, but overall this was a very disappointing year after coming in with high expectations.
Without Michael Snaer's heroics, the Seminoles would have been much worse this year.
Louisiana Tech was in consideration for an at-large bid for a good part of the season until a three-game losing streak knocked them out. Still, the Bulldogs should be able to get a win in the NIT if Florida State fails to show up in this one.
No. 3 BYU vs. No. 6 Washington
BYU had a very generic 2012-13 season. The team played well enough against bad teams to finish in third place in the WCC, but there were no wins against good teams.
Meanwhile, Washington showed an ability to play with some of the best squads in the Pac-12. The Huskies also had a few impressive non-conference wins, like over Saint Louis.
This is a solid defensive team, and it should advance in the NIT.
No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 7 Mercer
Few bubble teams ended the year stronger than Tennessee. With nine wins in the final 11 games, including wins over Missouri and Florida, this squad had a legitimate argument as a snub in the NCAA tournament.
It is tough to imagine Mercer challenging this team at home after struggling to score all season in the Atlantic Sun.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Northeastern
Alabama is another SEC team that will complain about being left out of the NCAA tournament. Of course, no Top 50 RPI wins and four losses to teams outside the top 100 leaves the team very little argument.
Still, the Crimson Tide are battle-tested and have enough talent to at least get by Northeastern in the first round.
The Huskies did well in the Colonial conference, but they are one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation and will give up too many opportunities to the bigger opponent.
No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 5 Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin had a great season, finishing with a 27-4 record. This is one of the top defensive teams in the country and it is fundamentally sound on offense, always passing to get the best shot available.
In addition, the Lumberjacks have proven an ability to bottle up great players, allowing Romero Osby of Oklahoma to only finish with eight points and three rebounds in an upset win.
Stanford had some good performances this year, but this team will have its hands full in the first-round matchup.
No. 3 Denver vs. No. 6 Ohio
If KenPom was running things, Denver would be in the NCAA tournament. The pace-adjusted metrics list this squad as the No. 38 team in the country, ahead of squads like Butler, UCLA and Illinois.
The Pioneers won 10 straight games to end the regular season, but they were unable to do any damage in the WAC conference tournament.
Ohio has a bunch of talent, but Denver has not lost at home since November, and it is unlikely the squad starts now.
No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 7 Niagara
When Maryland is playing well, it can beat almost anyone in the country. The Terrapins proved as much when it beat Duke not once but twice this season.
The Terrapins are a very young team and should use this tournament to build up confidence heading into next year.
After a very mediocre year, Niagara should be happy to see any form of postseason. Unfortunately, the Purple Eagles will have an early exit in the NIT.
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 8 Norfolk State
Norfolk State should be pretty upset about a poor seed after finishing undefeated in conference play in the MEAC. Then again, NIT gripes rarely make the news.
For Virginia, it comes down to which team shows up. Will it be the team that beat Duke or the one that lost to 5-25 Old Dominion?
Joe Harris should lead the Cavaliers to a first-round win, but they might not have the consistency to go deep.
No. 4 St. Joseph's vs. No. 5 St. John's
Neither team had a particularly impressive season, but St. John's completely collapsed down the stretch, losing the last five games of the year and seven of the last eight.
St. Joseph's had its issues, but the Hawks were at least good at home, where they will be playing in this matchup. The 11-3 home record should be enough to trust Phil Martelli's team in the battle of the saints.
No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 6 Indiana State
Iowa did not receive nearly enough credit for finishing 9-9 in the Big Ten, which was arguably the best conference in the country this season.
Led by Roy Devyn Marble, the Hawkeyes had few bad losses and were competitive in almost every game during conference play.
On the other hand, Indiana State lost to all but one team in the Missouri Valley Conference at least once. Unless Larry Bird suits up, Iowa has the advantage in this game.
No. 2 Massachusetts vs. No. 7 Stony Brook
Stony Brook simply cannot get it done when it matters most. After winning the America East regular season for the third time in four years, the Seawolves once again lost in the conference tournament and are relegated to the NIT.
Last year, Stony Brook lost a two-point game to Seton Hall, and it would not be surprising if this talented team causes trouble once again.
UMass is the type of veteran team that will be upset about narrowly missing out on the NCAA tournament, and are likely to come out flat on Tuesday.
Stony Brook is one of the best rebounding mid-majors you will find, and that will give this team an edge in this one.
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