Pitt was knocked out of the Big East Tournament by Georgetown on Wednesday, likely ending the Panthers' 10-year streak of making it to the NCAA Tournament. With a record of 17-16, and strong track record of attendance in its 11-year history, the Panthers seem like a good choice based on their recent success and their attendance over the years.
Pitt last made the NIT in 2001, opening with a win over St. Bonaventure, before falling to Mississippi State in the second round. The Panthers previously hosted a game in 1997, defeating New Orleans for its first postseason win in five years, before being eliminated by Arkansas the following week.
There's still a lot that can happen, and there's still a lot of teams that good be in the mix for an NIT bid. The NIT does take 32 teams, but we've compiled a list of 50 teams that have reasonable qualifications to be an NIT team. There are close to 50 teams in this discussion. Some have credentials to be involved in the NCAA Tournament discussion as well. From Pitt's perspective, the more of those teams, the better for Pitt to make the NIT. Even comparing Pitt to some of the schools from some of the bigger conferences (Maryland, Northwestern, Minnesota, UCLA, Oregon State), the Panthers don't have anything to up themselves on these other schools, other than the fact they're from the Big East.
It sounds like it should be a given to get in for Pitt. Given the fact Pitt finished with a subpar conference record, the fact that a lot of these teams are either first-place teams that didn't win their conference tournament, or the fact the bigger schools in the conversation have more on their resumes than Pitt did, it's not going to be a given.
The Bisons finished 24-9 overall, 12-2 and in first place in the Patriot League. They lost to Lehigh, however, in the Patriot League Championship game. Lehigh gets the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while Bucknell likely heads to the NIT. That's unfortunately how it works for some of the mid majors. From Pitt's perspective, it could work against the Panthers in hopes of attaining an NIT bid.
After making the national title game last year, the Bulldogs are in the talk for an NIT bid. They have an even tougher climb than Bucknell, finishing 20-14 overall and in third place in the Horizon League. Butler lost 65-48 to Valparaiso in the Horizon Conference Championship. Based on their recent history and their third place finish, they're a certainty for the NIT.
The Cougars did finish 25-8, and with a conference record of 12-4 behind teams like St. Mary's and Gonzaga. The problem is, after being bounced by nearly 20 in the conference championship game by Gonzaga, would the NCAA take three teams from the West Coast Conference? Seems unlikely, but who really knows what the committee is thinking. Certainly had they had a better finish in the conference title game, and a first or second-place finish in the regular season, the Cougars would have more NCAA support, but they too could be headed to the NIT along with a couple of other teams from their conference.
After all those 20-win teams, comes Clemson in at 16-15. The Tigers finished the ACC regular season in seventh place, and more impressively in the eyes of the NIT selection, finished with an 8-8 conference record. That should be enough to get the Tigers in.
The Vikings are at 22-10 after being knocked out by Detroit in the Horizon Conference semifinals. The Vikings finished the regular season in second place in the conference, ahead of Butler who is also in the conversation. Cleveland State should get more consideration than Butler. Could also help Pitt's cause from a regional perspective. With the schools just two hours apart, it could draw a lot of fans.
Temple is the only team ranked from the A-10, but the Flyers finished with a 9-7 conference record, and 20-11 record overall. The had a big win over then No. 16 Alabama earlier this season. Lets see what they do against Xavier tonight in the conference semifinals. Either way, the winner keeps some slim NCAA hopes alive, while the loser likely punches their ticket for the NIT.
The Dragons finished the regular season in first place in the Colonial Athletic Conference, but were defeated in the conference title game by Virginia Commonwealth. This conference may have a reputation based on Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason carrying some prestige. The Dragons will probably get an NCAA bid based on their 27 wins, and what some members of this conference have done in the Tournament in recent years. Virginia Commonwealth finished with 28 wins, and the conference's automatic berth.
George Mason is the more sure lock from the Colonial, at 24-9 and with a 14-4 record.
After being eliminated by Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Illini have a tougher road to the NIT than Pitt does. They lost 12 of their last 14 games including the loss to the Hawkeyes. Head Coach Bruce Weber's job may also be in jeopardy according to some published reports. Had the Illini won a couple games in the Big Ten Tournament, they may have done enough to boost their NIT stock. The slide they had to end the season, and the loss to Iowa probably make them a ‘no' for the NIT.
Wichita State and Creighton—teams ahead of the Redbirds in the Missouri Valley Conference—are both ranked. They should be locks for the tournament. The Redbirds did knock Wichita State out of the conference semifinals, but fell in overtime to Creighton in the conference championship game. Wichita State and Creighton have done enough this season to earn their respective NCAA berths. Illinois State is likely heading to the NIT.
Even though the Gaels finished with 25 wins, they suffer the unfortunate fate of winning the regular season in the MAAC, yet falling in the conference championship game. Instead, Fairfield gets the conference's automatic bid, likely sending Iona to the NIT.
The Hawkeyes replace Illinois' NIT fate, following a 64-61 win over the Illini in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament. An 8-10 record in the Big Ten doesn't help, but at least they're over .500. A win over Michigan State in the Big Ten quarterfinals will help their cause.
If the NIT takes LaSalle, they'll surely take Pitt, right? Not necessarily. The Explorers are at 21-11 overall, and knocked off Richmond in the first round of the Atlantic-10 Tournament. The A-10 might get just one bid for the NCAA this year. The Explorers take on St. Louis on Friday in the A-10 quarterfinals. They've done their part to secure an NIT bit—20 wins and a conference record over .500.
Loyola Marymount is stuck behind St. Mary's and Gonzaga in a tough West Coast Conference. The competition is tough, and this year's crop is pushing to get three teams in the NCAA Tournament with Gonzaga getting the automatic bid, St. Mary's at 27-5 surely getting another. The biggest question, as stated earlier, is if BYU at 25-8 should get in the NCAA. Loyola Marymount, at 19-12 and 11-5 behind these other three, should get into the NIT.
The Thundering Hurd helped its cause with a three-overtime thriller on Thursday night, beating Tulsa 105-100. That win most definitely sends Tulsa and Marshall to the NIT. The Golden Hurricane had a better conference record in the regular season. It also keeps Marshall's slim hopes alive for the automatic bid. Marshall, however, with the win solidified itself as an NIT team.
Maryland kept some NIT hopes alive with an impressive 22-point win over Wake Forest in its ACC Tournament opener. Their reward is a second round match with top-seed North Carolina. A win over the Tar Heels gives them a cushion. A loss, combined with a 6-10 conference record, doesn't help their case.
The Hurricanes are still working on their NCAA Tournament resume, following two routs—a 21 point win and an 18-point win—to start the ACC Tournament. Even though they have 18 wins, they do have wins over Duke and Florida State. They still need another win to secure an NCAA bid. Duke, North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia look like locks from the ACC. N.C. State also looks good, with the Hurricanes finishing right behind. If they don't advance in the ACC Tournament, they're likely heading for the NIT.
Middle Tennessee State
The Blue Raiders finished with 25 wins, finished the regular season in first place, yet lost in the conference title game to Arkansas State—a team who will get an automatic NCAA bid with an overall losing record of 15-16. That, along with the fact that only five out of 12 teams in the Sun Belt finished over .500 for the season doesn't help NCAA hopes, but likely does send them to the NIT.
Minnesota knocked off Northwestern on Thursday night in the Big Ten Tournament, increasing their NIT hopes. A strong performance against Michigan should solidify an NIT bid for the Golden Gophers.
New Mexico State
The Aggies' NCAA Tournament hopes are still alive. They'll need to claim the conference title to get the WAC's automatic berth after finishing the regular season in second place. Up next, Hawaii in the conference semifinals on Friday night.
The Wolfpack are ahead of Miami in the ACC pecking order. 20 wins and a 9-7 record in the ACC should be enough to get N.C. State into the NCAA Tournament.
The Panthers finished 19-13 and third place in the Missouri Valley behind Creighton, Wichita State and Illinois State. Illinois State has the edge, after knocking them from the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
The Wildcats looked prime for an NCAA bid, but its loss to Minnesota—a team below them in the standings—likely sends them to the NIT. This is a case where it hurts Pitt's chances of getting an NIT bid. The more bubble teams like Northwestern that fall, the less of a chance Pitt has.
Don't rule out the Bobcats from winning the MAC Tournament. They kept hopes alive with a 65-57 win over Toledo on Thursday night. With 25 wins now, they're a lock for the NIT unless they win two more games to capture the conference championship.
The Rebels kept some NCAA hopes alive with a 68-54 win over Auburn on Thursday night. They advance in the SEC Tournament to take on Tennessee. The winner likely heads to the NCAA Tournament. The loser, likely comes to the NIT.
Oral Roberts finished the season at 27-6 and in first place in the regular season, but was eliminated from its conference tournament. That likely leaves the Golden Eagles heading to the NIT.
The Beavers are heading to the Pac-12 semifinals after knocking off Washington Thursday. They don't have any other big wins, other than a two-point loss at Vanderbilt, and taking Stanford and Arizona to overtime. If they are able to get by Arizona Friday, you have to pencil them in for an NIT bid at the very least. Still, with 19 wins, despite a sub-.500 conference record, they too have a case for the NIT.
The Ivy League only gets one NCAA bid, and that went to Harvard earlier this week—its first in 66 years. The Quakers are another good team that could compete in the NCAA Tournament, but because of getting knocked out of its conference semifinals, are NIT bound.
The Colonials fell to Long Island in the NEC final earlier this week, but did have a strong end to their regular season. The Northeast isn't likely to send two teams to the NCAA Tournament, but with 24 wins, the Colonials give the NIT bracket another team with a heavy number of wins this season—again, making a harder case for Pitt.
The Hawks blew past Charlotte on Tuesday to advance to the A-10 quarterfinals on Friday. A win over St. Bonaventure almost guarantees them an NIT bid.
Another first-place regular season team knocked out of its conference tournament, and likely heading to the NIT. The Tigers—out of the MEAC—were eliminated by Hampton on Wednesday night. They needed to win the MEAC conference tournament to get an NCAA bid. With a first-place finish, and 21 wins, they're a lock for the NIT.
Did Seton Hall do enough to keep its NCAA hopes alive by advancing in the Big East Tournament this week? It seems like a year where the Big East should get six teams in. Those teams appear to be Syracuse, Marquette, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Georgetown and Louisville. Had Seton Hall not suffered bad losses to Rutgers and DePaul to end the regular season, they'd be a lock for the NCAA. Unfortunately, because of that struggle at the end of the season and Louisville's play in the Big East Tournament, the Pirates are heading to the NIT.
Lets not rule out an NCAA Tournament bid for the Bulls just yet. They took Notre Dame to the wire on Thursday night—the Big East's third-place team. South Florida may have surpassed Seton Hall in making the best case for an NCAA bid. The Bulls may be out of the running for the NIT now.
21-11 out of the Pac-10 sounds good, but this is far from the best year out of the Pac-10. It's hard to make a case for the Cardinal to get an NCAA bid, but they do have a solid case for the NIT.
The Vols take on Ole Miss on Friday night in the SEC Tournament. The loser likely heads to the NIT.
The Tigers finished 20-12, second-place in the Ohio Valley, and lost by only two to No. 12 Murray State in the conference championship game. In one of the bigger conferences, that's a lock for the NCAA Tournament. For teams coming from the Ohio Valley Conference, that's a lock for the NIT. They're also the only team to beat Murray State (30-1) this season.
Texas is still in the conversation for an NCAA big. At 20-12, and with a .500 conference record, the Longhorns are in good shape. If they get by Missouri in the Big XII semifinals, they have to be a lock for the NCAA—especially considering six of their 10 losses this season have been to Top Ten teams.
At 17-14, the Horned Frogs needed either a stronger conference tournament finish. However, wins over ranked opponents in UNLV and San Diego State—both road wins—make a case. Of the 17-win teams battling for an NIT bid (in addition to Pitt), none of the others have these type of road wins to put on their resume.
The Golden Hurricane may have lost all NIT hope after getting bounced from the Conference USA Tournament by Marshall. If 17 wins is bubble material for Pitt getting in the NIT, it's much more of a long shot for Tulsa.
If the Huskies were able to hold on against Syracuse on Thursday, we might be talking about them as an NCAA possibility. The NIT would certainly give some preferential treatment to the defending national champs.
Don't rule the Knights out of the NCAA equation just yet. They advanced in the Conference USA Tournament with a win over UAB. Up next, it's Memphis—a team they split the season series with. If they're able to get in the conference title game, they could be heading to the NCAA. If they lose to Memphis, they're a lock for the NIT.
The Bruins were eliminated from the Pac-12 Tourney Thursday by Arizona. Despite finishing with less wins than Stanford, the Bruins finished ahead of the Cardinal in the standing. UCLA last played in the NIT in 1986. There's a lot more teams in this NIT conversation with more than 19 wins, making it difficult, but of any of these teams, UCLA still has the biggest name in college basketball which may give them an NIT bid.
They got edged by top-seeded Temple in the regular season finale. Now, after two wins in the A-10 Tourney, they get a rematch with the Owls. There's still NCAA hope for the Minutemen. Even if they advance with a win over Temple Friday, and not win the A-10 title, that might be enough to get them in to the NCAA field. Currently, they have 21 wins, but they're tied with a host of others with a 9-7 conference record.
The Hokies are making a late push, following a win over Clemson in the ACC Tournament. Up next, it's Duke. A loss would put them at 16-17 for the season, which would severely dim their NIT hopes.
Xavier was 8-0 after a win over Cincinnati—a game marred by a bench-clearing brawl. The Bearcats are NCAA-bound, regardless of what happens Friday against Syracuse and beyond. Xavier went on to go .500 (11-11) from there on. They're a solid NIT team, especially with a win Friday over St. Louis, but what happened?
Robert Morris eliminated them from the NEC Conference Tournament, but the Seahawks—at 25-6—have as solid an NIT resume as anyone, including the road win at Pitt.
The Wildcats (24-6) are still playing for a Big Sky title, advancing to play Portland State Friday night in the semifinals. They finished in second place behind Montana. They need to win out in the Big Sky Tournament, otherwise, they're heading for the NIT.
West Virginia needed a better performance in the Big East Tournament to boost their NCAA hopes. Still, finishing in the upper half of the conference warrants an NIT bid at the very least.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee did finish with 20 wins and in third place in the Horizon League. Despite getting knocked out of their conference tournament by Butler, they did win their final five regular season games of the season, making them another candidate.
A 20-win season and a win over then No. 12 UNLV earlier this season looks good for the Cowboys. The only thing really haunting them at this point is a sub-.500 record out of the Mountain West.