NIT Bracket 2013: Projecting Paths of Cinderella Teams in Tournament

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIMarch 23, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - DECEMBER 20:  Lucky Jones #22 talks to Head Coach Andrew Toole of the Robert Morris Colonials after being called for a technical foul against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on December 20, 2012 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Colonials 79-74.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

No one is checking their 2013 NIT bracket rabidly after every game.

Chances are the guy sitting across from you at the bar isn’t checking his smart phone to see if Baylor outlasted Arizona State to advance to the NIT quarterfinals.

Plus, we might have already seen the biggest and most shocking surprise of the NCAA’s secondary March tournament. Robert Morris sent No. 1 seed Kentucky home packing.

Whoever said the NIT wasn’t fun, too?

It was crazy just to think Kentucky, who won the NCAA tournament in 2012, didn’t even qualify for the big dance this season.

But to lose to Robert Morris, a team on the bubble of even getting an invite to the NIT, is pretty shocking.

So what’s next for the Colonials after knocking off the Wildcats? We’ll take a look at their upcoming matchup and potential to continue to push toward the NIT finals.

We’ll also examine Mercer, a seventh seed, and its chances for advancement.


Robert Morris (No. 8 seed, Region 1)

As mentioned, Robert Morris narrowly knocked off the Kentucky Wildcats in the first round of the NIT. Next up for the Colonials is Providence.

While I’d like to acknowledge the stout defense and tougher schedule of the Friars here, it is tough to deny what we witnessed in the Colonials’ opening-round upset of Kentucky. The question is: Can the momentum from that win carry them past Providence into the quarterfinals and possibly beyond?

I like Providence to end this Cinderella story before it gets a chance to really take flight. There will be no magic carriage ride for the Colonials to the finals, just a memory of a stunning upset that, for the moment, made us all care about the NIT.


Mercer (No. 7 seed, Region 2)

Mercer narrowly missed an NCAA tournament bid after losing to Florida Gulf Coast University in the Atlantic Sun Conference championship. They didn’t seem to mind, and Tennessee didn’t seem to care, during the Bears’ first-round NIT upset over the Volunteers.

The Bears came out with more energy and desire and clearly outplayed their SEC opponent to advance to the second round. BYU awaits them there, after pouring on 90 points in an 11-point victory over Washington in their opening-round matchup.

Unlike Robert Morris, I think Mercer has what it takes to contend further than the second round. A win over BYU isn’t going to be easy, though. The Cougars are an efficient and explosive offensive team that averaged 76.5 points per contest during the season.

Following another surprise win, though, the Bears' luck will run out as they would likely face Southern Mississippi in the quarterfinals. The Golden Eagles have too much firepower. They gave Memphis a run for its money in the Conference USA finals, falling in double overtime and missing its NCAA tournament chance.