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NIT 2018: Tournament Dates, Seed Format and Bracket Release Info

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2018

WICHITA, KS - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Joe Dooley (C)talks with his team during a time out in the second half against the Wichita State Shockers on December 22, 2017 at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas.  (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

The NIT is overshadowed by the NCAA tournament every year, but it still has something to offer for teams that don't make it to the Big Dance. 

It gives 32 squads a chance to reward their fans with extra basketball—an especially meaningful opportunity for the small-conference schools that have limited avenues to play in March Madness but could benefit from some nationally-televised competition.

Professional-hoops hopefuls might get a few extra opportunities to show they have what it takes to compete at the next level. Plus, the semifinals and finals are in Madison Square Garden, which means a trip to New York City and the gift of playing in a basketball mecca. 

To top it all off, the college players will be testing out some experimental rules this year that emulate the NBA and professional international basketball setups, per the NCAA. That includes a deeper three-point line, games divided into four 10-minute quarters, a wider free throw lane and a quicker shot clock after offensive boards (maybe it will encourage more putback dunks). 

      

Bracket Release

A few teams have already secured a spot in the NIT, though they were fighting for much more, but the final field won't be set until Selection Sunday (Mar. 11), when the NCAA tournament field is set and the teams that got their bubbles burst get a chance to duke it out for a different championship. 

The NIT Selection Special will air Sunday on ESPNU, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.

         

2018 NIT Tournament Dates

March 13-14: 1st round at campus sites

March 15-19: 2nd round at campus sites

March 20-21: Quarterfinals at campus sites

March 27: Semifinals at Madison Square Garden

March 29: Final at Madison Square Garden

Information per NCAA.com.

         

Seed Format

The NIT features 32 teams divided into four groups of eight. The seeding runs through Nos. 1-8, with the higher seeds hosting the lower seeds during the rounds that are played at campus sites. The NIT is a single-elimination knockout tournament. Every NIT matchup will air on ESPN network channels. 

           

Early Qualifiers

As of Tuesday evening, five teams have automatically qualified for the 2018 NIT: Florida Gulf Coast, Northern Kentucky, Rider, UNC Asheville and Wagner.

All five of these teams suffered the same fate: topping their respective conferences in the regular season but then failing to win the conference tournaments that guarantee passage to the NCAA tournament. 

Wagner is the most recent addition to the NIT field, as they lost to LIU Brooklyn 71-61 Tuesday night in the Northeast Conference Tournament championship game. It was a shocking loss for the Seahawks, who struggled to shoot in their biggest game of the season. 

"We couldn't throw a ball in the ocean," Wagner coach Bashir Mason said, per the Associated Press (h/t USA Today).

NYCBuckets.com, which tracks NIT eligibility and puts together its own bracket predictions, has four of the five qualified teams coming into this tournament as bottom-feeder eighth seeds, owing to their small-conference origins and the fact that the NIT will eventually be populated with tons of programs from bigger schools, many with stronger basketball traditions.

The only exception is Rider, which it pegs as a seventh seed. The Broncs shockingly fell to Saint Peter's (a team with a losing record on the season) 66-55 on Friday early in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament. 

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