The NIT begins tonight! I’ve been saying for years that I wanted to fill out an NIT bracket, and this year I finally have. Here it is (click to open)

Now, some rationale:

  • I like VT to win it all. I have Illinois going to the finals, based on their terrific performance in the Big 10 Tournament. I also picked the underrated Pac-10’s ASU and Mike Davis and his UAB squad (more on him later)
  • I picked a lot of higher seeds. That’s to be expected in the NIT because the first 3 rounds have home-court advantage. I analyzed the last several tourneys and found that on average there are 3 upsets in the early rounds, and only 5 over 4s and 6s over 3s.
  • For upsets, I like William and Mary over UNC. I like the travel factor (Chapel Hill is near Williamsburg), and UNC can’t be happy as a 4 seed in the NIT. I’m betting they’ll play accordingly.
  • I also picked NC State over South Florida, as I think the Big East is overrated.
  • In round 2 I have Memphis over Mississippi and Dayton over Cincy. Both those are due to close proximity of the games for the traveling teams, and very close matchups. In round 3 I have UAB over Miss St. in a similar matchup.

Feel free to post a link to your NIT bracket and see how you compare.

I have been fascinated by the NIT since the Ohio State Buckeyes made a series of runs deep into the tournament back in 1986 and 1988. It was the 1988 tourney I remember most – I was 7 years old, and my favorite player Curtis Wilson didn’t have a great game – 4 assists and only 6 turnovers. Ohio State lost to Connecticut by 5.

These days, I look to the NIT to tell me who is going to be good next year. Last years NIT said a lot about good teams this year. Baylor and Notre Dame both made it to the final four last year in the NIT and put out great seasons this year.

One other side note: in 2008 I attended the NIT! I saw 4th ranked VCU lose to 5th ranked UAB, headed by Mike Davis, who’s back for his 3rd straight NIT this year and fighting for his job. I was a fan of Mike Davis back when he coached Indiana. I thought he came into a tough situation there and did very well despite the pressure and criticism. I think UAB would be foolish to fire him.

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