By deciding to hit the road to open its play in the National Invitation Tournament, Indiana (18-15) has made its task just that much more difficult. If the Hoosiers want to get the reward of playing in Madison Square Garden in the NIT semis, IU may have to get there by winning three straight on opponent home courts.
In all of 2016-17, Indiana has won just two road contests. The first was at Penn State courtesy of a buzzer beating 3-pointer from James Blackmon Jr. The other came in the regular season finale at Ohio State.
Both of those teams finished near the bottom of the Big Ten and were not invited to the NIT.
If you count the loss at Fort Wayne as a road defeat, Indiana went 2-8 on the road this season.
Despite those road struggles, Indiana officials decided it was best to travel to Atlanta this Tuesday night to play No. 6 seed Georgia Tech. As the No. 3 seed, Indiana had the opportunity to host the game. The fact that it's spring break week at Indiana was cited by university officials as the reason to not host the opening round game. While that would have certainly impacted attendance, over half the other teams hosting (Alabama, Syracuse, Iowa -- to name three) have their campuses on spring break this week but still opted to host. In fact, Indiana was the only higher seeded team to choose to go on the road for the opening round.
NIT bracket link - includes opening round locations, game dates, TV detail
Not much was expected of Georgia Tech (17-15) and new coach Josh Pastner this season but the Yellow Jackets earned home wins over the likes of North Carolina and Florida State. The Tar Heels are a No.1 seed in the NCAA and the Seminoles a No. 3 seed. Of course Indiana knocked off North Carolina as well this season.
Since the winner of the 3/6 seed game next plays the 2/7 seed winner, Indiana could very well be on the road for its second round game. In Indiana's region, No. 2 seed Georgia is hosting No. 7 seed Belmont on Wednesday night.
If Indiana wins at Georgia Tech and Georgia wins over Belmont, the Hoosiers will likely have to go to Athens for that second round game since the Bulldogs are the higher seeded team. At least the travel logistics will make that a simple bus trip. In case you're wondering, spring break for Georgia Tech is not until next week and Georgia had its spring break last week.
There may be some uncertainty if Indiana and Belmont are the first round survivors. The Hoosiers would have the option of hosting as the higher seed but the Indiana official site wording on the NIT bid said "IU is not hosting the opening round due to Spring Break, but will host anytime on March 20, 21 and 22 should they advance." The official NIT site says second round games would be played in the March 16-20 time frame. Belmont is a private school located in Nashville, Tennessee. The Bruins received an automatic NIT bid since they won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season crown with a 15-1 mark but were upset by Jacksonville State in the OVC tourney semifinals.
If the Hoosiers advance through the first two rounds they may face an old nemesis in the quarterfinals. Syracuse is the No. 1 seed in Indiana's region and as the higher seed would like host the game in the Carrier Dome, the largest campus arena in college basketball. Indiana and Syracuse have met twice in the last four years with the Orange winning by an average score of 65-51. Since Indiana beat Syracuse in the 1987 NCAA title game, Jim Boeheim has won all five subsequent meetings against the Indiana program.Four of those games came on neutral courts including two in the Maui Invitational and the 2013 NCAA regional semis in Washington, DC. That was followed by an early December rematch in the Carrier Dome where Syracuse once again shut down the Hoosiers, 69-52.
Rule Change Experiment in NIT
There a few rule changes being experimented on during this year's NIT:
Team fouls will be reset to zero at the end of 10-minute segments in each half.
“The committee believes resetting the team fouls to zero at the 9:59 mark of each half may have the same effect as resetting the team fouls to zero at the end of each quarter, while at the same time allowing for men’s college basketball to retain the unique format of two 20-minute halves,” says the official NCAA statement.
Once a team commits its fifth foul in a 10-minute segment, the other team will shoot two free throws through the end of that segment for each subsequent foul.
The experimental rules will eliminate “1-and-1” free throws that are awarded for non-shooting fouls once a team is in the bonus (after seven fouls in a half) and before the 10 foul double bonus..
One other change is the shot clock will be reset to 20 seconds instead of 30 seconds when the ball is in-bounded in the front court. If the ball is in-bounded in the back court, it will be the traditional 30 second shot clock at the start of a possession.