NIT Tournament 2021: Full Bracket, Schedule and Top Championship Contenders

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 17, 2021

NIT Tournament 2021: Full Bracket, Schedule and Top Championship Contenders

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The winner of the NCAA tournament won't be the only men's basketball team in the country to end their season with a victory. There will also be a champion crowned in the National Invitation Tournament, which is set to get underway Wednesday night with a pair of first-round matchups.

    Not only is the NIT being held entirely in the Dallas-Fort Worth area this year, but there are only 16 teams in the field, rather than the 32 that it typically features. With a smaller bracket, the tournament only extended at-large bids, rather than automatically inviting regular-season conference champions.

    While these 16 teams didn't make it to March Madness, they'll still have an opportunity to play up to four more games before the 2020-21 season is over. Here's a look at the full NIT schedule, followed by a breakdown of some of the top contenders in this year's tournament.

Complete NIT Schedule

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Wednesday, March 17

    First round: No. 2 Richmond vs. No. 3 Toledo, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

    First round: No. 2 Saint Mary's vs. No. 3 Western Kentucky, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2


    Thursday, March 18

    First round: No. 2 Davidson vs. No. 3 NC State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

    First round: No. 2 Boise State vs. No. 3 SMU, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN


    Friday, March 19

    First round: No. 1 Colorado State vs. No. 4 Buffalo, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

    First round: No. 1 Ole Miss vs. No. 4 Louisiana Tech, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2


    Saturday, March 20

    First round: No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 4 Dayton, noon ET, ESPN

    First round: No. 1 Saint Louis vs. No. 4 Mississippi State, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN


    Thursday, March 25

    Quarterfinal matchup, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2

    Quarterfinal matchup, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Quarterfinal matchup, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Quarterfinal matchup, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2


    Saturday, March 27

    Semifinal matchup, noon ET, ESPN

    Semifinal matchup, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN


    Sunday, March 28

    Championship game, noon ET, ESPN

    Third-place game, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN   

Ole Miss (16-11)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Ole Miss should be one of the favorites to win the NIT, as the Rebels came up just a bit short of reaching the NCAA tournament. They won six of their final eight regular-season games, then beat Vanderbilt in the second round of the SEC tourney. And they almost pulled off a quarterfinal upset against LSU, losing 76-73.

    This is the first time Ole Miss has been in the NIT since 2017, as it reached the NCAA tournament in 2019. And while it's never made it past the semifinals of the NIT, that could change this year.

    As a No. 1 seed, the Rebels will play their first game of the NIT against No. 4-seeded Louisiana Tech on Friday. And they'll likely continue to rely on the trio of senior guard Devontae Shuler (15.3 points per game), junior guard Jarkel Joiner (11.6) and senior forward Romello White (11.6).

    Although Ole Miss is coming off a loss, it was a strong showing against a good LSU team. Don't be surprised if the Rebels get back on track and end their season with an impressive run in the NIT.

Saint Louis (14-6)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Saint Louis may have lost to St. Bonaventure in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament, but it had won seven of its previous nine games. Now, the Billikens are a No. 1 seed in the NIT and will look to make a run through the tournament, beginning with their first-round matchup against No. 4-seeded Mississippi State on Saturday.

    One of the most exciting players to watch in the NIT should be Saint Louis senior guard Javonte Perkins, who has averaged 17 points in 20 games this season. And this isn't the end of Perkins' college career, as he's already announced he'll be back next season. (The NCAA gave all players an extra year of eligibility because of the uncertainty of a season played amid the coronavirus pandemic.)

    Perkins has the potential to put up a lot of points on efficient shooting, and if he does that during the NIT, he could lead the Billikens to a strong showing. Saint Louis is making its first NIT appearance since 2004. It last played in the NCAA tournament in 2019.

    Saint Louis led the Atlantic 10 with 38.9 rebounds per game this season. Expect the Billikens to control the glass and use their rebounding advantage to win a few games in the NIT.

Boise State (18-8)

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Boise State has the potential to have some NIT success as a No. 2 seed in the tournament. But in order to do so, the Broncos are going to need to bounce back from their rough stretch to end the regular season, which then led to a quick exit from the Mountain West tournament.

    After winning 18 of its first 22 games this season, Boise State lost twice at San Diego State and then fell at home to Fresno State to end the regular season. It then fell 89-82 to Nevada in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tourney, ending the Broncos' hopes of getting into the NCAA tournament.

    But if Boise State can return to its early-season form, it's capable of making an NIT run. The Broncos started the season with a 13-1 stretch, and the only loss came at Houston, one of the best teams in the country, in their opener.

    If senior guard Derrick Alston Jr. (17.4 points per game) hits his shots, that should lead to positive results for Boise State. It will look to begin the NIT on a strong note when it faces No. 3-seeded SMU on Thursday.