I’m doing this because no one else is, and because I wanted to chronicle the Florida Gators’ try to win a smaller trophy for the big cases in Gainesville.
First bracket has No. 1 Ohio State against No. 8 UNC-Asheville and No. 4 California against No. 5 New Mexico in the top half, No. 3 Dayton against No. 6 Cleveland State and No. 2 Illinois State against No. 7 Utah State in the bottom.
ESPN2/ESPNU’s show has somethings named Mike Gleason and Adrian Branch. Huh? (Good to know all of these games will be on the ESPN family of networks, even if that includes ESPN Classic, though.)
Next bracket has No. 1 Virginia Tech up against No. 8 Morgan State pitting Hokies against Bearcats in the Semi-Real Mascot Special, No. 4 Virginia Commonwealth against No. 5 University of Alabama-Birmingham in the Long School Names Special, No. 3 Nebraska against No. 6 Charlotte in the Who Cares? Special and No. 2 Mississippi against No. 7 UC Santa Barbara in the Ole Miss Is A Basketball School? Special.
Honestly, if I knew anything about these teams other than that they aren’t good enough to play with the big boys, I probably would be writing about the big tournament, not the medium-size one.
Third bracket pits No. 1 Arizona State against No. 8 Alabama State, No. 4 Southern Illinois against No. 5 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Someone U. Creighton versus No. 6 Nowhere State Rhode Island, and No. 2 Florida against No. 7 San Diego State.
“This is a time to celebrate the game of basketball,” says Adrian Branch. Okay, I can concede that point.
Then he says Florida’s “calling card” this season is “defense.” “Defense” is a good description of the way the Gators played defense this year. This is why he’s on the NIT show, folks.
The final bracket puts No. 1 Syracuse against No. 8 Robert Morris, No. 4 Minnesota against No. 5 Maryland, No. 3 Florida State against No. 6 Akron, and No. 2 Massachusetts against No. 7 Stephen F. Austin.
And we get an interview with Travis Ford, UMass coach, who describes Stephen F. Austin as “very, very good,” which makes a lot of sense, as the Lumberjacks went 26-5 this year and are one of the winningest teams in this field.
C.M. Newton, NIT Selection Chairman, who I think sold me insurance last week, is describing the selection process, which is apparently a bit more complicated than “Pick those guys the other guys didn’t pick.” (Who knew?)
And the show ends without a second glimpse at the Arizona State bracket, so I don’t know what the 3-6 matchup is there. Time to Google…
To my mind, in the East Region, it’s a stacked bracket in the Ohio State region, with Dayton, which could’ve made the Sweet Sixteen if Chris Wright had stayed healthy, NCAA snub Illinois State, and Cal, which has a couple of NBA prospects.
Virginia Tech is the best team in their bracket, the South Region, but VCU and UAB might be the second- and third-best, and it’s a shame they’re playing in the first round.
The Arizona State bracket, the West Region, is damn good, too, as the Sun Devils, Gators, and Salukis, should the first two show any interest in defense or the last one scrounge up some offense, could all win the whole ball of wax. (And by ball of wax, I actually mean the ball of wax awarded to the NIT champions.)
The North Region should be a Syracuse walk, but the Minnesota Blake Hoffarbers could screw that up with another miracle shot.
I’ll be doing more shotgun NIT analysis as the games begin, and will live blog a few of them as I go.
(Oh, and that other tournament? I’m doing a bracket, posting it, and being witheringly honest about my wrong picks. See you Tuesday.)