While big brother, the NCAA March Madness Tournament, gets all of the attention, the NIT just sits in the background. But in the true spirit of March, we as college basketball fans need to consume as much college basketball as possible this month, so here is a little extra: an NIT preview.

 

There are some solid major conference teams in this years NIT tournament that just missed out on the Big Dance (Syracuse) and that got hit by the injury bug (Indiana). But don’t forget about the mid-major teams. These are the teams that either A) won their regular season conference title but fell in the conference tournament or B) were good enough to earn that at-large NIT bid. Teams like Illinois State, Monmouth, and Akron were all eyeing their leagues automatic bid when their dreams were unfortunately crushed by an upset in the conference tournament. Regardless, the NIT gives them the opportunity to prove their worth and prove that they belonged (and hey, more basketball is never a bad thing!). There is also another twist that adds some intrigue to the NIT: the rule changes that the NCAA is trying out.

 

Rule Changes

I find it very interesting (and smart) that the NCAA is trying out new rule changes on this tournament. The NIT has the prestige and teams where we can see how the rule changes will affect teams in top leagues, but they also don’t affect the game too much and won’t change the landscape of college basketball (vs. them trying it in the Big Dance)

 

  1. Each teams fouls will reset to 0 after the 10 minute mark in each half. The double bonus will now take place after 4 fouls in each 10 minute “quarter”
  2. The shot clock will be reset to 20 after inbounding the ball from the front court

 

Bracket

The field for this years NIT tournament is a solid group. The number one seeds all narrowly missed out on the tournament, while high mid-major teams like Houston and UCF get a chance to prove they didn’t just get by in a lower conference. And while the tournament may not have the intrigue or meaning of the NCAA tournament, getting to play in Madison Square Garden for the NIT Championship isn’t too bad either.

 

Teams to Watch

  1. Syracuse
    • One of the “first out” of the NCAA tournament and has numerous top 10 wins (oh, and they will get NIT games at the Carrier Dome, where they’ve been unstoppable)
  2. Illinois State
    • Didn’t get the at-large bid they were hoping for which might make them come out to play with something to prove
  3. Indiana
    • While their injuries took away a lot of talent, they are still one of the most talented teams in this tournament and can put together a run
  4. BYU
    • Only team to knock off Gonzaga, so we know they can hang with the best of them
  5. Houston
    • Has very good scoring guards in Rob Gray Jr. (20.5 ppg) and Damyean Dotson (17.3 ppg) and if they get hot they can light up the scoreboard
  6. TCU
    • The job Jamie Dixon has done in his first season at TCU is incredible, highlighted by a surprising upset of Kansas in the Big 12 tournament

 

 

Predictions

As with the NCAA tournament, anything can happen in this tournament. Last year, #4 seed George Washington upset #1 seed Valpraiso, while power conference teams like Ohio State, Florida State, and Virginia Tech could get past the second round. So at the risk of having yet another bracket blown up (if you haven’t seen, I tried my hand at a Division 3 bracket that got busted pretty quick), here are my picks for the 2017 NIT tournament:

 

First Round:

  • #1 Syracuse over #8 UNCG
  • #4 Monmouth over #5 Ole Miss
  • #3 Indiana over #6 Georgia Tech
  • #7 Belmont over #2 Georgia
  • #1 California over #8 CSU Bakersfield
  • #5 College of Charleston over #4 Colorado State
  • #3 BYU over #6 UT Arlington
  • #2 Houston over #7 Akron
  • #1 Illinois State over #8 UC Irvine
  • #4 UCF over #5 Colorado
  • #6 Boise State over #3 Utah
  • #2 Illinois over #7 Valpraiso
  • #1 Iowa over #8 South Dakota
  • #4 TCU over #5 Fresno State
  • #6 Richmond over #3 Alabama
  • #7 Oakland over #2 Clemson

 

Second Round

  • #3 Indiana over #7 Belmont
  • #1 Syracuse over #4 Monmouth
  • #1 California over #5 College of Charleston
  • #3 BYU over #2 Houston
  • #4 UCF over #1 Illinois State
  • #6 Boise State over #2 Illinois
  • #1 Iowa over #4 TCU
  • #6 Richmond over #7 Oakland

 

Third round

  • #1 Syracuse over #3 Indiana
  • #3 BYU over #1 California
  • #4 UCF over #6 Boise State
  • #1 Iowa over #6 Richmond

Final Four

  • #1 Syracuse over #3 BYU
  • #1 Iowa vs #4 UCF

Championship

  • #1 Syracuse over #1 Iowa

 

Analysis: I just think Syracuse playing at the Carrier Dome (and then the Final Four and championship at Madison Square Garden) will be too much for any team they play. Syracuse is a much, much better team when they are home. Iowa will get to the championship riding the underrated and under-appreciated hand of Peter Jok.

 

More than likely I will be way off, but you can never fill out to many brackets, no matter which tournament it is.

The Student Section