Before March Madness, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) was the premier post season tournament in NCAA men’s college basketball. However, the NIT has unfairly been given the reputation as a subpar alternative to March Madness due to the quality of teams, with the champion referred to in some circles as “the 69th best team in the country” for not making the 68-team NCAA tournament. There is a large fallacy in the notion that teams who fail to make the NCAA tournament are worse than some of the teams that do, or that being the NIT champion has no meaning.
Teams in the NIT are given an opportunity not only to continue their successful seasons but also to compete in a more balanced tournament. (The NIT doesn’t have upsets like when #14 Mercer beat #3 Duke in 2014.) Does Stanford’s NIT championship last year mean they were worse than automatic qualifying teams in the NCAA Tournament from conferences such as the Ivy League or SWAC? Were they worse than teams from conferences that have an automatic NCAA Tournament bid but have yet to have a team go beyond the opening round of the tournament? The fallacy of calling the NIT champion “the 69th best team in the country” or the NIT the “Not Important Tournament” undermines the sport of college basketball and the very spirit of competition it looks to uphold.
Note: The 2016 National Invitation Tournament will be in its 79th year at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The four quarterfinal winners square off Tuesday, March 29 with the Championship scheduled for Thursday, March 31.