NIT: The Equal Opportunity Dance
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It was the first major college basketball tournament.
And frankly, in terms of even competition, it may again be the best.
The big brand schools, of course, have taken over the Big Dance.
A fair number of those big brand programs are truly elite. This will be evident later in the week when a Southwest Nowhere State matches up as a 16th seed against Monolith U. In theory, the underdog will pick one of them off some day.
No. No, we're not. This will only happen in the Math Department when probabilities get spat out of the laptop.
In the Dance, seedings are dependent on stats like the RPI that, by definition, are insular; they lock out schools from non-Power Five conferences because the big brands won't schedule them. And they're not totally to blame because matching up against other big brands makes them more money. In turn, eye test or no eye test, it's more advantageous for a UCLA to be admitted to the bracket than, say, a Colorado State.
Look at it another way: anymore, the Big Dance is more about the glitter than the guts. Kinda like this devolution:
- First of all, they've actually got a chance to win the NIT.
- Secondly, they're still playing, and will most likely play in this one longer than they would've in the Dance.
- Ideally, the games are held on campus, which means that fans aren't gouged as much.
- And what's more, they'll still get their chance to knock off a big brand program that somehow managed to avoid an invite to the NCAA tournament.
No less a purist than Bobby Knight figured this out decades ago. His Army team was invited to both the NIT and NCAA. Knight took one look at Johnny Wooden's UCLA juggernaut, got real, and went to the Garden.
The hell of it is, the Black Knights still got dumped in one.
These days, teams don't have a choice. The NCAA controls both events, and it's decreed that the Dance comes first. But the teams consigned to the NIT shouldn't despair. It can actually be a more fulfilling party.