The dawning of a new year means that the season has gone far enough along where I can do a real NIT bracketology update and not feel like its just darts thrown at a wall. The following is the NIT bracket for if the season ended today.
That’s obviously an important distinction. League champions were determined by looking at Pomeroy’s projections coming into play on Dec. 31, when I did most of the work for this bracket. Teams though have been given credit for wins that occurred yesterday. (This is especially important for a number of Big East teams.) Let me tell you though, things are in constant flux. There are teams in this NIT bracket that I anticipate will move out of (in a good or bad way) in the next few weeks. In order to even be considered you had to have an above .500 record against Division I competition.
Also, the RPI is screwed up right now! When you see a team has three Top 100 RPI wins ask who they might be. Utah State for instance has a number of “Top 100 RPI wins” but two of them come from beating UC-Santa Barbara twice already this season. UCSB is actually a decent basketball team (65th in KenPom), but there is no way they finish with the 24th best RPI. Nebraska-Omaha is 80th in RPI and 138th in KenPom. Don’t believe everything you see about a team.
As much as possible I tried to avoid too much “eye test” in the bracket, though it is definitely necessary for a few teams. It’s St. John’s and Indiana’s best argument for being in the NCAA tournament instead of the NIT – but in my opinion neither team has done enough to merit inclusion in the Big Dance right now. Ultimately I believe that the Hoosiers and Red Storm aren’t making the Field of 68, but their inclusion in the NIT in this initial bracket is more about the fact that their profiles just don’t stack up against other NCAA at-large teams.
Here are my final 10 NCAA at-large teams in alphabetical order: Arkansas, Butler, Cincinnati, LSU, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee, VCU, Virginia, Xavier
Without further ado the first NIT bracketology of the season:
4. N.C. St.
7. Indiana St.
1. Saint Mary’s
8. Penn St.
4. Arizona St.
2. St. John’s
7. Wake Forest
3. Southern Miss
2. Kansas St.
6. Utah St.
8. Saint Joseph’s
4. Notre Dame
7. Georgia Tech
One big reminder as you’re looking through this bracket is that the bottom 8-12 slots are going to be taken by teams needing automatic bids (i.e. won their league’s regular season title and didn’t win the postseason tournament). Thus if your favorite team is on the 7 or 8-seed lines they’re definitely not safe. If they’re on the 6-seed line they might be safe depending on how many upsets we see during championship fortnight.
Note: This bracket will be updated again in mid-to-late January and then weekly on Wednesdays in February and more often as we get towards Selection Sunday in mid-March.