Tuesday, March 13, 2012

To NIT or Not to NIT, That Is the Question

Well, the Gophers are in the post-season. Both the men and the women.

And while it seems to have been a foregone conclusion that the men would be in the NIT, there was some doubt about the fate of the women right up to the announcement last night that the Gophers would, well, NOT be in the NIT. Instead they will play in something call with Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI).

But first:

The Men

The Gopher men open NIT play at LaSalle on Wednesday (tomorrow) at 6 p.m. our time, and the game will be on ESPN2. The Gophers are a 6th seed (19-14) while LaSalle is a 3rd seed (21-12). You're kidding me, right? LaSalle in their conference gets 2 more wins than we do as members of the Big Ten and they're 3 seeds better? Jeez.

Tubby said, "We are very grateful for this opportunity." Yeah, I guess so, but you didn't have to say it.

The Gophers won the NIT in 1993 and 1998 (the latter having been vacated since). Overall, we are 18-11 in NIT games. Go Gophers.

The Women

Now, as to the women, there was serious doubt whether they would qualify for the NIT. You have to have a winning record, which the Gophers do not have (at 15-17). EXCEPT, if you are the highest rated team from your conference that is not in the NCAA (that is eligible for the NIT), then they can take you and you can go.

But in order for that criteria to kick in, 7 Big 10 teams had to get NCAA invites, and that seemed like a long shot.

So what happens? 7 Big 10 teams get invited to the Big Dance. And now there's all kinds of anticipation of the NIT field which was announced late last night.

But then, long about 9 p.m., comes the announcement of the WBI field and, lo and behold, there are the Gophers among them. The announcement says the field "features a strong mix of mid-majors and BCS programs." Well, oops, the Gophers are the only BCS program in the field. We are hosting Charleston Southern (17-14) and if we win, we will also host the winner of Bradley (17-15) and Tennessee Tech (17-16).

Well, some folks are up in arms. One even said that Pam Borton should be fired for this.

Fired for what?

So we are playing for a WBI title rather than the NIT. But here's the question. What did Pam know, and when did she know it? The NIT field was announced Sunday night. When did we have to commit to the WBI? What if we turn down the WBI and don't get an NIT bid (if Michigan, say, or Michigan State doesn't get an NCAA bid, then they get the automatic NIT bid).

And there's also this. We get 2 home games in the WBI. Who knows where we would be going in the NIT. The men are going to Philly to play LaSalle. Whoop-de-do.

So you're 15-17 and no way are you going to the big dance. I don't see a bit of difference if you play in the NIT or the WBI, but I do see a difference of getting a couple of home games (maybe more) versus potentially no home games at all in the NIT.

The Charleston Southern game is 7 p.m. Friday. If we win, the 2nd round is on Sunday, also at the Barn.

Go Gophers.

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