If the NIT doesn't fit

Once upon a time the NIT was a big deal. And C.M. Newton, who took Alabama's team to the NIT when it was big, is in charge of that tournament, which is now owned by the NCAA.

But it's no longer a big deal, though if anyone can make it big it would be Coach Newton (and the members of his committee, including Dean Smith). Newton, who went from Bama to the Southeastern Conference office to head coach at Vanderbilt to athletics director at Kentucky, is now retired and living in Tuscaloosa. He is the most knowledgeable college basketball person in the world.

Even when it wasn't quite so big, there was a theory that you wanted to keep playing and practicing. Therefore, even if you weren't good enough to get into the NCAA, an NIT experience would make you better for the next season.

And, heck, if you make it to New York, you can make it anywhere in the future. Maybe.

On Sunday, the NCAA will announce the 65 teams for the national championship tournament. Soon thereafter, the NIT will announce its field, and almost no one will care.

The Alabama team of Mark Gottfried that began the season with such promise and was the national flop of the year will not be getting an NCAA Tournament bid. That was exceedingly unlikely before Thursday's SEC Tournament start.

The "new season" -- tournament time -- was just more of the same poor Bama season. Kentucky romped the Crimson Tide, 79-67.

Will Alabama be invited to the NIT field? Probably. When the NIT was a private venture, it was all about raising money to go to the owners. Preliminary games were held at various college campuses and the only NIT representative at the game was there to collect receipts to take back to New York.

Money is still important, and the NIT will take note that Alabama had record home attendance in 2006-07.

Alabama also has only one senior, so most of those who would get the extra practice time and extra game experience would be returning next season.

But that doesn't make it a good idea. Does anyone believe this team will get coached up much with another week or two or three of practice and play?

And heads up to the NIT: Don't expect Alabama fans to bust down the doors trying to buy tickets for more basketball from this team.

I'm not advising Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore to refuse an NIT bid. I expect that Mark Gottfried would want it. (He may get a bonus for coaching Bama into post-season play, although I'm not sure about that for an NIT bid.)

But if the Crimson Tide is in the NIT, I'll probably think of a word or two about it. Possibly one that rhymes with NIT.


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