Does NIT success bring future NCAA appearances?

I got asked a question on Twitter the other day about how teams that make the Final Four of the NIT do the next season. It’s an interesting question partly because it’s a difficult one to really solve. There’s a lot that goes into a team’s season a success or failure. One obvious question though is: Do teams that make the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden then go onto to make the NCAA Tournament the next season? That is something we can take a look at, and there seems to be something to it.

The theory goes that a team will gain some experience on its journey through the little bracket and then bust out the next season as a big time contender (think Wichita State or Alabama for this upcoming season). The question then is does that really happen? Well, 44 teams have played in an NIT Final Four since 2000 and then played another season and 21 of them have made the NCAA Tournament the following year. At 47.7% that seems like a pretty darn high hit rate. (The percentage doesn’t change much if you just looked at teams that played in the finals or just champions either, both are 45.5%. )

Then again, maybe these are just programs that go to the NCAA Tournament a lot? Blind luck could get Louisville, North Carolina or Florida into the Field of 68 most seasons. But as a whole that’s not the case. The 35 teams that made the NIT Final Four between 2000 and 2010 combined to reach the NCAA Tournament in just 159 of 420 seasons between 2000 and 2011 or 37.9% of the time. (And include programs that haven’t been at all recently like Rutgers, Rhode Island and Detroit.) If you exclude seasons when they were playing in the NIT you end up with 159 of 376 seasons (42.3%).

So maybe there is something to this. While you shouldn’t bet the farm on all of Colorado, Washington State, Wichita State and Alabama making the field, it’s quite possible at least two will be playing in March Madness next season. (And one almost assuredly will, as that’s happened for every NIT Final Four since 2000.)

In March when your team is battling to be team No. 69 remember that there’s always 2012-13 and what a good season it has the possibility to be.

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