The men's and women's editions of the National Invitational Tournament are one of the more well-known consolation prizes in all of sports, and it's easy to look down on them as such.
But when a consolation prize means at the very least one more game playing with a squad that will never again exist in that year's iteration—with graduation, transfers and/or coaching swaps making change practically inevitable—well, life's not so bad is it?
Last year saw Pac-12 representatives win the men's and women's tourneys, each by just a bucket. Stanford topped Miami 66-64 to win the NIT, while UCLA pipped West Virginia 62-60 to win the WNIT.
Selections for the NCAA tournament aren't until Sunday, March 13, so for now, the NIT field remains largely a mystery (but we do know a few teams involved). The WNIT bracket won't be filled out until Monday, March 14.
With that in mind, here's a quick rundown of the early information regarding the postseason tournaments.
|2016 NIT Men's Early Schedule|
|First, Second, Quarterfinals||March 15-23||Campus Sites|
|Semifinals||March 29||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
|Finals||March 31||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
Schedule via NCAA.com.
|2016 WNIT Early Schedule|
|First Round||March 16-18||Campus Sites|
|Second Round||March 19-22||Campus Sites|
|Third Round||March 23-25||Campus Sites|
|Quarterfinals||March 26-28||Campus Sites|
|Semifinals||March 30-31||Campus Sites|
|Finals (CBS Sports Network)||April 2, 3 p.m. ET||Campus Sites|
Schedule via WomensNIT.com.
Format, Known Info
The NIT and WNIT are both adhering to the typical elimination-style tournament format in 2016. For the men's competition, 32 teams will compete in single-elimination matchups until a championship is crowned. Unlike the NCAA tournament, there are no play-in games here.
The WNIT field is 64 teams, equaling the women's NCAA tournament in size. The WNIT too is single-elimination all the way through.
As for the individual games themselves, there will be some experimentation in the NIT. Last year saw the NIT utilize a four-foot restricted area arc and a 30-second shot clock.
With those two changes now adopted on a permanent basis, the NIT and other postseason tournaments could again be harbingers of change. According to NCAA.com, all postseason men's tournaments other than the NCAA tournament will allow players six personal fouls before fouling out instead of the usual five.
This will bring the NIT in line with the NBA, which allows six fouls, despite the games being eight minutes shorter.
"It's not about fouling out," said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in May 2015, per USA Today's Nicole Auerbach. "It's about how different you play with two fouls in the first half, or three fouls at the start of the second half. … I am in favor of keeping the best players on the floor."
"I think this is great," he added.
While Izzo may be excited about the potential, he's not going to be trying it out this March. His Spartans are 26-5 and contenders for the national title.
Speaking of specific teams, there are a few confirmed participants for the consolation tournaments. Abilene Christian earned an automatic bid to the WNIT by winning the Southland Conference title with a 63-52 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday, per ACUSports.com. The University of Tennessee-Martin women's hoopsters are also in after winning the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title but losing the conference tournament.
As for the NIT, four teams are confirmed participants, per ESPN 980's Tim Murray:
Tim Murray @1TimMurray
4 NIT spots have been locked up... North Florida, Belmont, Bucknell, & High Point (Wichita St on bubble to go dancing)2016-3-7 02:37:18
North Florida will represent the Atlantic Sun Conference after winning the regular-season title. It's the Ospreys' first appearance in the NIT. The High Point Panthers represent the Big South, Belmont will try to do the Ohio Valley Conference proud and Bucknell hails from the Patriot League.
So which of these teams will benefit most from that sixth personal foul?
Well, that would appear to be Bucknell, who ranks 302nd in the NCAA with 21.4 personal fouls per game. North Florida doesn't appear to need any help from the rule change. The Ospreys rank as the 18th friendliest team in the NCAA, with just 16.3 fouls per contest.