With so much attention placed on the NCAA tournament, the average basketball fan misses out on the original post season college basketball tournament. The NIT or National Invitational Tournament started in 1938, pre-dating the NCAA Tournament by one year and is second in age only to the NAIA Tournament. The men’s tournament originally consisted of only 6 teams, which later expanded to 8 teams in 1941, 12 teams in 1949, 14 teams in 1965, 16 teams in 1968, 24 teams in 1979, 32 teams in 1980, and 40 teams from 2002 through 2006. The tournament finally settled on 32 teams for 2007. With all the attention on the “Big Dance,” the NIT has long been regarded as the “Not In Tournament,” and for many fans it is meaningless. However, since its installment it has always hosted some of the best talent in America and the 2012 tournament is no different.
The original field of 32 was complied with teams from all over the country with very different stories and goals for post season success. There were favorites to win the event such as Seton Hall, which many thought would have been selected to play in the NCAA tournament and underdogs such as Savannah State who were grateful to see post season action and were looking to make the most out of it.
The NIT did not disappoint with the upsets and drama that people love to see in post season action. Just in the first round alone, 7 out of the 16 games saw a lower seed upset a higher seeded team. With the NIT down to its final four teams we have teams from some of the major basketball conferences in the nation. Stanford and Washington out of the Pac-12, Minnesota from the Big Ten and UMass from the Atlantic 10 comprise the teams that have made it to the final four. The tournament does not come up short with some of the best coaches in the country either. In the final four alone we have to great coaching match ups. Legendary coach Tubby Smith will take his University of Minnesota team against Lorenzo Romar and the Washington Huskies. Washington has two potential NBA first round draft picks in Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten. UMass has an exciting 5’6 point guard from Brooklyn in Chaz Williams who is quick, can score off the dribble or from deep and even is around the ball for some rebounds.
While the NCAA arguably has the larger talent pool, the NIT has a rich history of producing top talent. The majority of the NIT players that receive the MVP honor have gone on to NBA careers including Hall of Famer’s Walt Frazier and Reggie Miller. If you are looking to get your basketball fix in before the NCAA Final Four, tune in tonight for the semi-finals on ESPN.
Andrew Heath is a Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.