Courier Journal’s Jeff Greer fills out his NIT bracket and tells you how he thinks the University of Louisville will do in the tournament.
Jeff Faughender/Louisville Courier Journal
The National Invitation Tournament holds a unique place in college sports as a consolation prize.
It’s an entire bracket constructed of 32 also-rans from major conferences and regular-season champs from other leagues who happened to lose in the conference tournament and miss an automatic bid. Pretty much everyone is disappointed to be there instead of the NCAA Tournament.
For some, the NIT can be a great experience, a wonderful cap to a mildly successful season and a stepping stone for the future. To others, it’s an unwelcome chore after a long season, something to have to endure before the offseason.
Take Louisville, for instance. The Cards’ players evidently fall into the second group. They reportedly didn’t want to join this year’s NIT after missing out on an NCAA at-large bid. But they’re playing in it anyway, hosting Northern Kentucky on Tuesday night as one of the bracket’s four No. 2 seeds.
What to expect now?
Well, the NIT is notoriously unpredictable because a teams’ true motivations are exposed quickly. Higher-seeded NIT teams get to host each game in the first three rounds, but teams didn’t really want to be there in the first place often play like it against smaller programs out to prove something on a larger stage.
Last year, for example, no team seeded higher than No. 4 even reached the NIT semifinals in New York. The No. 2 seeds went 1-3 in the first round, with Clemson losing to Oakland, Georgia losing to Belmont and Houston losing to Akron.
Indiana, with a coaching change looming, lost 75-63 at Georgia Tech, which went on to the NIT championship game as a No. 6 seed.
Download this now: Here’s your blank and printable NIT bracket
Last year’s many upsets may have been an outlier. Or it might have been the start of a trend in the NIT.
A look back at the past 10 NITs shows that the top seeds — those like Louisville who barely missed the NCAA field — have in fact been more likely to advance to the final four and win the event.
Of the past 10 NIT champions, two were a No. 1 seed, three were a No. 2 seed, two were a No. 3 seed and three were a No. 4 seed. None were seeded worse than No. 4, which is perhaps attributable to the better-seeded-team-hosts nature of the bracket.
In those 10 years, a team has been about as likely to win NIT games as a No. 1 seed (66.4 percent) as a No. 2 seed (66.1 percent).
Meanwhile, here are the number of final four teams by seed since 2008:
#1 seed – 11 teams (27.5 percent of qualifiers)
#2 seed – 14 teams (35 percent)
#3 seed – 6 teams (15 percent)
#4 seed – 5 teams (12.5 percent)
#5 seed – 1 team (2.5 percent)
#6 seed – 2 teams (5 percent)
#7 seed – 0 teams
#8 seed – 1 team (2.5 percent)
So while there are obvious challenges — often mental more than physical — to an NIT appearance, the odds of the past 10 years still do favor a No. 2 seed like Louisville gearing up to make a run despite the disappointment of missing an NCAA bid.