Assessing Indiana’s Slim NIT Chances

Quick.  Name the bubble teams that were left out of last year’s NIT.  Name anyone that was even IN the NIT other than Indiana and Georgia Tech.  Most of you have got nothing.  We’re right there with you.

You have to wonder why the Not Invited Tournament takes itself so seriously.  Sure you could put Wagner and Arkansas Pine Bluff in the giant losers bracket that is today’s NIT.  You could analyze the RPI and strength of schedule until you are blue in the face and make sure you have it just right.  Yep, you could do all that.

Or you could have some fun.  Maybe set up a first round game between Indiana and Notre Dame in South Bend.  An in-state rematch of an overtime thriller that would likely draw a decent crowd and television ratings.

IU vs. Georgia Tech in the 2017 NIT. Credit – Georgia Tech Athletics

Let’s face it, no one is watching Wagner or Arkansas Pine Bluff except the player’s friends and family.  The last time I checked, the NIT tournament exists to make money.  It is really hard to imagine another reason to have it.  But despite that fact, the NIT tournament committee does indeed take itself quite seriously.  So seriously in fact that it is willing to leave big brands out in the cold, and television ratings be damned.

We saw this happen to Indiana in 2013-14 when it finished the year 17-15 and it failed to garner an NIT invite.  The NIT opted for a Minnesota vs. High Point first round game rather than Minnesota vs. Indiana.  We’re sure the ratings were stellar.

It wasn’t always this way.  The NIT used to be independently operated and it used to pick the teams based on their marketability.  Then the NCAA got involved around 2005 and established a formula and a committee.  And now you end up with Minnesota vs. High Point.  Click.

The late James Hardy against Vanderbilt in the 2005 NIT.

But we digress.  Just as ultimately no one will care or remember much about the 2018 NIT, Indiana fans would be pretty apathetic about it whether the Hoosiers were in or out.  The NIT just isn’t what we invest all of this time and energy for.  We’re already consumed with whether Romeo is coming, Morgan is staying, and what next year could look like if both of those things happen.

Okay, so we lied in that last paragraph.  We would care if IU was in the NIT.  Not because it really matters, but because we have a sickness.  I certainly wouldn’t be spending the time on this rant if I didn’t care.  Would making the NIT ultimately make any difference at all in the trajectory of the program?  Probably not.  But we’d suffer through it.  All the way, in fact, through that first round loss to High Point.

BECAUSE WE DO CARE

If you didn’t already know or haven’t figured it out by now, Indiana’s NIT chances are slim.  As we mentioned, the NCAA has a formula for who makes the NIT automatically.  In the simplest terms, regular season conference winners that do not win their conference tournament and thus do not get the automatic NCAA bid, get the NIT bid.  That’s quite backwards if you ask me, but it is what is.

Reggie Miller with the 1985 NIT trophy after defeating Indiana.

Because of that formula, the more regular season conference winners that lose in their conference tournaments, the less room there is for bubble teams like Indiana.

We surveyed the various NIT bracketologies that we were aware of.  Can you believe we found eight?  Here is where they have Indiana as of the end of the day on March 7.  Keep in mind two things:  (1) The NIT is a 32 team tournament, and thus an 8th seed is the worst possible seed, and (2) things can only get worse for IU as more and more regular season conference winners lose in their conference tournaments:

Unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing Reggie Miller vs. Steve Alford in the Garden this year like we did in 1985.  Feel free to come back and check these, as I believe the links will continue to work as the projections update.  Let me know if I’ve missed any other good NIT projections.

Also let me know if you even care.  Oh wait, you made it this far.  Yep, it’s a sickness alright.  We’re in this together.

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Main photo:  Indiana Hoosiers’ Butch Carter, right, one of the co-most valuable players in the National Invitation Tournament, is embraced after the final buzzer on Wednesday, March 21, 1979 at New York’s Madison Square Garden after Indiana took the NIT championship. Steve Reish and Scott Eells, center, share joy in the win over the Purdue Boilermakers. (AP Photo/GP Burmett)

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