A new season of college basketball means another chance to predict the National Invitation Tournament bracket. (Well, at least for an incredibly small subset of the population.)
I have been working on predicting the second most prestigious postseason tournament in college basketball for the past decade. (Yes, really.) For the past few seasons I posted the predictions on NYC Buckets, but the end of the site meant my forecast needed a new home (its third). Thank you to Mid-Major Major Madness for agreeing to host them this season.
My goal with NIT Bracketology has always been to predict what will happen at the end of the season. For a large part of the campaign, that is much different than if the season ended today. Even if a few unlucky bounces leaves a heavy favorite slightly behind in the conference standings, they’ll still be my projected champion. Likewise, resumes for every team include a projection of how they’ll do moving forward. One of the biggest pieces is if I think a team will finish over .500 overall. That metric is technically not a requirement, but it has been a line the committee has consistently avoided crossing.
Of course the introduction of NET will slightly change the equation as well. Without any past history for the metric, I can’t really say how. Let’s just note that almost all bracketologists are flying even more blind this season than usual.
Projecting what will happen at the end of the season is even more difficult when no games have tipped off, let alone finished. This preseason bracket was constructed by combining the preseason projections of T-Rank, KenPom, Matt Norlander, and Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook along with a little of my own intuition. Those sources represent a cross-section of data and human informed opinions. Hopefully their synthesis has led to a stronger bracket.
Please note that the NIT has awarded automatic bids to regular season conference champions that did not win their conference tournament since 2006. It is impossible to predict at the moment which teams will need that parachute, but there are around nine of them every season. Thus, teams with a six seed or below are actually on the NIT bubble (they’re marked in italics). Without further ado, the bracket.
Automatic NCAA Bids of Note: Virginia (ACC), Saint Louis (A-10), Houston (AAC), New Mexico St. (WAC), UC Irvine (Big West), UNC Greensboro (Southern), Northern Kentucky (Horizon), Illinois St. (Missouri Valley)
NCAA At-Large Bids (Alphabetical): Alabama, Arizona St., Auburn, Cincinnati, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Florida St., Indiana, Kansas St., Marquette, Maryland, Miami (FL), Michigan, Mississippi St., Nebraska, North Carolina, North Carolina St., Ohio St., Providence, Purdue, Saint Mary’s, San Diego St., Seton Hall, St. John’s, Syracuse, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Xavier
Note: In the future I’ll just include the at-large bids around the NCAA bubble, but I thought it was instructive to include all of the teams receiving at-large bids this time.
1. Iowa St.
8. Oregon St.
5. South Carolina
3. Notre Dame
7. Fresno St.
8. Grand Canyon
5. New Mexico
6. Penn St.
8. Wichita St.
2. Loyola (IL)
Bracket Notes: New Mexico and Penn St. were swapped in the bracket for geographical considerations, but I consider the Nittany Lions a better bet to make the NIT.
Also Considered (Alphabetical): Boise St., Boston College, George Mason, Illinois, North Texas, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Southern Illinois, St. Bonaventure, Texas A&M, Tulsa, UC Davis, VCU
Next Bracket: Early December