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SALT LAKE CITY — It's not the “Big Dance” but the National Invitational Tournament is still a worthwhile tournament for teams, particularly those looking to gain experience in a competitive atmosphere.
Local teams BYU and Utah had their individual successes this season, but they will more than likely be held out of the NCAA Tournament, barring some unusual circumstances. However, both teams appear to be a lock for the NIT.
Like it's bigger, more publicized brother, the NIT has a selection committee to choose the next best teams to make up the tournament bracket. Because of its less-than-publicized nature and overall difference from the NCAA Tournament, the following is a brief look into how teams are selected for the NIT.
The NIT is made up of 32 teams, instead of the 68 included in the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, the first few games of the tournament are played at home sites of the higher-seeded teams. Like the NCAA Tournament, teams are seeded and then divided into various regions. Each of the four region champions will move on to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The committee has several resources at its disposal, including box scores, game summaries and notes, in addition to various computer rankings and results, information submitted by the conference and the NABC regional advisory committee rankings.
The NIT bracket will be released Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU. The first round of the tournament begins March 14-15 at the respective home sites of the higher-seeded teams.
Like the NCAA Tournament, there are teams that are automatically granted a spot in the NIT should the team want to continue its season. A team is considered an auto-bid team if it is its conference regular-season champion but has not been selected to play in the NCAA Tournament. Most often this is a team from a one-bid conference that failed to win its respective conference tournament. However, this can apply to a major conference but in extremely rare circumstances.
As of early Saturday morning, only six teams have received an auto-bid to the NIT: Belmont (Ohio Valley), Illinois State (Missouri Valley), Monmouth (MAAC), Oakland (Horizon), South Dakota (Summit) and UNC Greensboro (Southern). Should this remain — which it likely won't — the committee would select an additional 26 teams to fill up the bracket. As more regular-season champions lose in their respective conference tournaments, that number drops.
Teams still in contention for an NIT auto-bid include: Akron (MAC), Cal State Bakersfield (WAC), Middle Tennessee (CUSA), NC Central (MEAC), Nevada (MWC), New Orleans (Southland), North Dakota (Big Sky), Princeton (Ivy League), UC Irvine (Big West), UT Arlington (Sun Belt) and Vermont (American East).
At-large team selection
Each member of the NIT selection committee reviews the various teams in contention and submits a ballot listing no more than 32 teams he or she believes deserve to be included in the tournament. That list may not include regular-season champions or teams that have already earned an auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Teams receiving a vote on every ballot will be moved into the at-large selection board. All other teams receiving at least one vote will be moved into the “nomination board” where they are listed alphabetically. Each committee member then submits a ballot of the eight teams from the nomination board that he or she believes should be added to the at-large selection board.
The eight teams with the highest votes will be ranked by the committee using a “cross-country scoring system,” with the best team valued at one. The four teams with the lowest scores are added to the at-large selection board. The remaining four teams are held over to an additional nomination process, where an additional four teams are added and then ranked by the committee using the scoring system. Should a team not move on after two rounds, it returns to the nomination board.
The process continues until a decision has been made by the committee to start seeding the teams. Although the committee could stop at 32 teams, it is expected that approximately 56 teams will be included on the at-large selection board.
Seeding the teams
The committee creates a “seed list” by selecting the top eight teams from the at-large selection board and from the board of teams receiving an auto-bid. They are once again ranked using the “cross-country scoring system.” The four teams with the lowest scores move into the seed list in order. The four remaining teams are held over and four more teams are added as the committee repeats the process until all teams are ranked.
A team may move up or down on the list if all but two committee members agree upon the change. However, a team may move from its “natural seed line” if it will meet up with a conference opponent before the regional final or if the teams scheduled to play in the first round have already played against each other that season. The top four teams make up the No. 1 seeds, with the next four as the No. 2 seeds, and continuing until the four No. 8 seeds.
The No. 1 seeds will make up the four regions. Once the four regions have been placed, the committee places the No. 8 seed in the region closest to the No. 1 seed. The No. 2 seed is then placed closest to its No. 1 seed region, followed in similar fashion by the No. 7 seed but in the region closest to the No. 2 seed. The No. 3 seed is then placed in the region closest to the No. 2 seed, with the No. 6 seed in the region closest to the No. 3 seed. The No. 4 seed is placed in the region closest to the No. 1 seed, with the No. 5 seed placed in the region closest to the No. 4 seed.
The higher-seeded team has the option to host each game as it advances, but could have “extenuating logistical circumstances” that could keep the team from hosting a game.
In this site's latest NIT projections, Utah is listed as a No. 4 seed and BYU, in a different region, is slotted as a No. 3 seed.