NIT 2021: Tournament Dates, Seed Format and Bracket Release Info

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2021

NIT 2021: Tournament Dates, Seed Format and Bracket Release Info

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    Seton Hall forward Sandro Mamukelashvili
    Seton Hall forward Sandro MamukelashviliLaurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    Although reaching the NCAA tournament is the ultimate goal, the NIT provides a postseason opportunity for the best teams on the wrong side of the bubble.

    By no means is that to suggest the NIT is a perfect consolation prize, but it's still a way to win a championship.

    And soon enough, we'll know the 16 teams battling for the NIT title. Since most major conferences are in the early stages of their tournament, the NIT field will be settled on Selection Sunday.

    This early preview includes dates, the updated NIT selection process and some potential teams to know.

2021 NIT Dates

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    Saint Louis guard Javonte Perkins
    Saint Louis guard Javonte PerkinsJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Selection Date: March 14

    Round 1: March 17-20

    Round 2: March 25

    Semifinals: March 27

    Final and 3rd-place playoff: March 28

    All games will be broadcast on ESPN/ESPN2 and played at UNT Coliseum in Denton, Texas, or Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas.

Selection Process

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    Memphis guard Boogie Ellis
    Memphis guard Boogie EllisKaren Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

    In previous years, the NIT included 32 teams. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the field has been cut in half.

    Along with dropping the field to 16, the NIT will not have automatic qualifiers. Any regular-season conference champion that didn't win the league tournament would ordinarily head to the NIT, but all 16 selections will be at-large teams in 2021.

    But, as is normal these days, there's a catch.

    The teams ranked 1-4 in the NIT are also potential replacements for the NCAA tournament. If any program from a multi-bid conference is unable to play in March Madness, the top-seeded NIT team would be moved to the NCAA tourney.

    While that unfortunate possibility should not be expected, it could affect both March Madness and the NIT. And, most likely, it will never happen again.

Potential NIT Teams to Know

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    Duke forward Matthew Hurt
    Duke forward Matthew HurtRobert Franklin/Associated Press

    Heading into championship week, the bubble is a difficult place to be. The best-case scenario is a conference tournament title and automatic bid to March Madness. In many cases, though, an early exit in a league tourney can seal a team's postseason fate.

    And that certainly applies to Richmond, Saint Louis and St. Mary's.

    Richmond fell in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, and Saint Louis bowed out in the semifinals. St. Mary's lost in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tourney. In all likelihood, none of them will be in the 68-team NCAA field.

    Several big-name schools that could follow suit are Duke, Indiana, Memphis, Ole Miss, Seton Hall, St. John's, Syracuse and Xavier. Colorado State, SMU and Utah State are also worth monitoring.

    If any of those programs put together a deep run in their conference tournament, an NCAA tourney bid may follow. Otherwise, they will likely be invited to the NIT.