When a team that won its conferences regular season title falls in the conference tournament and does not receive an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, they are given an automatic spot into the National Invitation Tournament, or NIT, as it is commonly referred to. The NIT is regarded as a step lower than the NCAA tournament, but is still reasonably successful for up and coming programs that could use the extra practice time.
Many people feared that the unexpected amount of upset in mid-major conference tournaments would prevent the Gaels or the Dons from being selected into the NIT field.
That was not the case, as two WCC teams – Saint Mary’s and San Francisco – received a pair of four seeds and will host first round games.
San Francisco is featured in the “SMU” quarter of the bracket, where they will take on the LSU Tigers in their first round matchup at 7 p.m. PST on ESPNU. As I alluded to before, the game will be held at War Memorial Gymnasium in San Francisco, Calif.
Saint Mary’s is also included in the field of four, where they will welcome the Utah Utes to McKeon Pavilion for its first round matchup. The game will take place on Tuesday evening and will televised on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. PST. The Gaels are in the Minnesota portion of the bracket.
The WCC fared very well with its NIT seeding, as the committee rewarded both teams with home games. While the NIT is often scoffed at, it is a fantastic tournament to compete and build on a successful season. Just ask the BYU Cougars, who played in the NIT last year and are now in the NCAA tournament this season. Their experience certainly helped for the Cougars. The Dons and Gaels will hope that this experience in the NIT will help them make the jump to the NCAA’s next season.