There were some disappointed faces around the country yesterday evening as the 2013 NCAA tournament field was announced, and a few teams finally saw their bubble burst.
But those teams now turn their attention to the 2013 NIT, which boasts a strong field of teams across the board.
Let’s take a look at the bracket:
The casual college basketball fan probably just did a double take. Kentucky bracket? In the NIT? It’s real, folks, and it gets better. Not only is Kentucky playing in the NIT, but they are also traveling on the road in the first round due to the NCAA tournament being played in Lexington. Where they headed? Why, Robert Morris, of course. If you had this matchup in your preseason NIT bracket, give yourself a pat on the back.
All kidding aside, Kentucky’s portion of the bracket is interesting due to a potential matchup with Baylor. Scott Drew’s team went into Rupp Arena earlier in the season and won, and that was when Nerlens Noel was playing. I could see Arizona State knocking off Baylor due to their inconsistency, but I think we’re heading toward a Kentucky/Baylor rematch. That’s only if John Calipari can motivate the young guys enough to care about this tournament.
SOUTHERN MISS BRACKET
Southern Miss had their chances to lock up an automatic bid by beating Memphis in the Conference USA championship game, but they couldn’t make the plays in overtime to get it done. Joining them on this side is the team that I thought had the best case for getting into the NCAA tournament of everyone in this field, the Tennessee Volunteers. They had quality wins and won 8 of 10 down the stretch, so it bothers me that Saint Mary’s got in over them. Nonetheless, Cuonzo Martin should be able to motivate his team and have them ready to go for Mercer.
BYU and Florida State could get hot, however, it also wouldn’t surprise me if they both lost their opening round games to Washington and Louisiana Tech. The solid pick is for Tennessee and Southern Miss to meet on this side of the bracket, as I really can’t see either losing unless they play uninspired.
The Crimson Tide would have been in the field of 68 had they been able to hold off Florida in the SEC tournament, but now they enter the NIT as one of the top seeds. Alabama played in the NIT championship in 2011, so Anthony Grant knows what type of approach to take with his team in this type of setting.
But unfortunately for Bama, their road could by blocked by teams that I think have a chance to win the whole thing. One of those teams is Maryland, who played very well in the ACC tournament and is playing some of their best basketball. The other team is Denver. The country might not know much about this team, but they are balanced and shoot the ball very well. I’m taking the winner of the second round game between Maryland and Denver to get to Madison Square Garden (my gut tells me Maryland but I’d love to see Denver get a shot at it).
Virginia was another team that had a strong case to go dancing, but instead, Tony Bennett’s squad will start off their NIT run by hosting a Norfolk State team that shocked the world last season by upsetting Missouri in the NCAA tournament. Their defense will be what fuels them in this tournament, and I think this is a favorable bracket for them.
UMass and Iowa will provide a challenge as I think they’re two teams who could possibly make a run to MSG. I’ll say that this one comes down to Virginia and UMass, simply because I don’t think Iowa will be able to put together enough to knock off the Minutemen.
NIT FINAL FOUR PREDICTIONS
#2 Tennessee over #1 Kentucky
#2 Maryland over #1 Virginia
Championship Game: #2 Tennessee over #2 Maryland
Who are you picking to win the 2013 NIT tournament?