March Madness 2018: NIT Predictions


People are often quick to hate on the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) as many call it a “loser’s bracket” or something very similar. Even though it was the most prestigious tournament in college basketball back in the day, the NIT is currently a playing field that consists of teams that missed out on the NCAA Tournament, but it is also a chance for us to get a taste of what the future of college basketball might be. And yes, that goes for the teams involved, as well as the rules that are put forth.

This year, the NIT will be played under these new rules:

  • The 3-point line will be extended by approximately 1 foot, 8 inches to the same distance used by FIBA for international competition.
  • The free-throw lane will be widened from 12 to 16 feet, which is the same width that the NBA currently uses.
  • The games will be divided into four 10-minute quarters as opposed to two 20-minute halves. Two free throws will be awarded beginning with the fifth foul of each quarter. (Yeah, just like women’s basketball.)
  • The shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of the full 30 seconds.

Whether you are a fan of these rules or not, you can’t disagree that having the NIT as a platform to try these rules out is going to help the sport as a whole. Remember when the shot clock was at 35 seconds but got moved down to 30 seconds a couple of years ago? You have the NIT to thank for that.

With that said, let’s get into my predictions for the NIT. Granted, some of these will be pretty quick pitches as the NIT can be even more unpredictable than the NCAA Tournament itself. Which teams really want to play here? It usually takes us past the first weekend to find out. Plus, this is one of the more talented NIT fields the tournament has seen as you could make a tournament case for most of the top seeds. What kind of factor will that play into the bracket?

First Round-

8 Wagner at 1 Baylor (7:00 ESPN2, Tuesday)

Wagner is only here because they won the Northeast Conference in the regular season. Thanks for coming.

  • Prediction: Baylor

7 Northern Kentucky at 2 Louisville (7:00 ESPN, Tuesday)

Northern Kentucky and Louisville should be a good game from a rivalry sense, but I think Louisville merely outplays the Norse at home.

  • Prediction: Louisville

6 Vermont at 3 Middle Tennessee (8:00 ESPNU, Tuesday)

Vermont/Middle Tennessee might be the most intriguing First Round game the NIT has to offer. Vermont and Middle Tennessee were two of the best mid-major schools out there, but because of how Championship Week goes, they got snubbed from an NCAA Tournament berth. That being said, Middle Tennessee is absolutely the better team here. Kermit Davis will have his guys ready, and Giddy Potts (with all of his postseason experience) will dominate.

  • Pick: Middle Tennessee

5 Boston College at 4 Western Kentucky (8:00 ESPN3, Tuesday)

I really like what this game has to offer. It’s a shame that it didn’t get picked up on TV, and instead will be streamed on ESPN3, but we’ll all live. Go out of your way to watch this one. You will be pleasantly surprised.

  • Pick: Boston College

8 Hampton at 1 Notre Dame (9:00 ESPN, Tuesday)

In the first half, Bonzie Colson alone will score more points than the entire Hampton team.

  • Pick: Notre Dame

7 Florida Gulf Coast at 2 Oklahoma State (9:00 ESPN2, Tuesday)

This isn’t Dunk City. This is a pissed off Oklahoma State team.

  • Pick: Oklahoma State

6 Rider at 3 Oregon (10:00 ESPN3, Tuesday)

Rider had an extremely high RPI all season long, finishing with an RPI of 69. Sure, they won the MAAC regular season, but the Broncs didn’t have anything going for them other than that.

  • Pick: Oregon

8 Southeastern Louisiana at 1 Saint Mary’s (10:00 ESPNU, Tuesday)

Saint Mary’s was snubbed hard from the NCAA Tournament. When was the last time you saw a team finish in both the USA Today Coaches Poll and the AP Poll heading into the “Big Dance” and still miss out on the thing? I don’t get it either. Now, if Southeastern Louisiana were a more talented team, I would’ve considered this a trap game for the Gaels, but SE Louisiana isn’t anything special, so I don’t see an upset here.

  • Pick: Saint Mary’s

8 UNC Asheville at 1 USC (11:00 ESPN2, Tuesday)

USC was the most prominent snub from playing in the NCAA Tournament. UNC Asheville is only here because of their Big South regular-season title. It will get ugly for the Bulldogs.

  • Pick: USC

7 Harvard at 2 Marquette (7:00 ESPN2, Wednesday)

Those at CBS Sports were riding high on Marquette as a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Of course, that didn’t quite happen. Also, I have a friend that was pretty high on Harvard before they lost in the Ivy League Championship. Who do you believe more? CBS or my friend whom you never met?

  • Pick: Marquette

6 UL-Lafayette at 3 LSU (7:00 ESPN3, Wednesday)

There is nothing special about Louisiana-Lafayette except for their record. There’s nothing flashy about LSU either, which is why I decided to just pull an upset bid out of nowhere and say that UL-L takes this one home.

  • Pick: UL-Lafayette

5 Temple at 4 Penn State (8:00 ESPNU, Wednesday)

This game will be fun to watch as the NIT Selection Committee decided it was best to have a bunch of in-state games in the First Round. If Penn State shoots the ball well, this one is theirs.

  • Pick: Penn State

5 Nebraska at 4 Mississippi State (9:00 ESPN2, Wednesday)

Nebraska is the only team that’s not one of the top two seeds that you could’ve made a case for regarding the NCAA Tournament. Just to give you an idea of how crazy the bubble was this year, Nebraska was a tournament team in 2014. Their record heading in was 19-12. This year, they are 22-10 and still missed out. Quite honestly, it’s a shame that it has to go down like that. On Mississippi State’s side of things, they’ve been an undervalued team all year. I’ll undervalue them here too.

  • Pick: Nebraska

7 UC Davis at 2 Utah (9:00 ESPN3, Wednesday)

The Big West was weak this year.

  • Pick: Utah

6 BYU at 3 Stanford (10:00 ESPNU, Wednesday)

Many experts liked Stanford this season and thought that if the PAC-12 was better as a whole, that they would’ve gotten in with an extra win here and there. I didn’t see the Cardinal in the same light. Losses to Eastern Washington, Portland State, Long Beach State, California, and Colorado are ultimately inexcusable. You could say the same thing about BYU in the sense that they lost to UT-Arlington, Pacific, Loyola Marymount, and San Diego this year, but let’s think for a moment. It’s not often when you see a mid-major team get an at-large bid the way BYU did when teams like Maryland and Memphis were still out there for the taking in the NIT field. The Selection Committee obviously thinks that BYU did something good this year. Guys, a ten-loss team out of the West Coast Conference got into one of the most talented NIT fields in history.

  • Pick: BYU

4 Boise State at 5 Washington (10:00 ESPN3, Wednesday)

For Boise State, not being able to play at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho is going to hurt them.

  • Pick: Washington

Second Round-

4 Penn State at 1 Notre Dame

If Penn State can find a way to slow down Bonzie Colson and Notre Dame and hold them to under 70 points, this will be a win for the Nittany Lions. However, I don’t think Penn State holding the Irish to under 70 is going to be possible with Colson in the lineup.

  • Pick: Notre Dame

3 Oregon at 2 Marquette

I’m not very high on Marquette, but I am high on Oregon. Although this was a down year for the Ducks, they still have a lot of experience under their belt. Marquette is a better shooting team than Oregon, but I think this game will come down to the turnover battle. Who will force the late-game turnover that ends up winning the game? Troy Brown will be that guy for Oregon.

  • Pick: Oregon

5 Nebraska at 1 Baylor

Just to give you some context, Nebraska was projected to be “pretty much out” for the entirety of Championship Week as soon as they got beat by Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. Are you trying to tell me that Nebraska is going to be prepared for this game? In all seriousness though, if Nebraska does a better job than Baylor in shooting three-pointers, this game will be theirs. Baylor lost the three-point battle in 13 of their 14 losses on the season.

  • Pick: Nebraska

3 Middle Tennessee at 2 Louisville

Louisville’s stars will need to outplay Middle Tennessee’s stars on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor to win this game. Deng Adel of Louisville will be a player to watch in this one. He can be very good at grabbing boards and scoring as you would expect from a 6’7 forward. This game has the potential to be the best Second Round contest as I feel like both teams WANT to be here right now. Sure, it would’ve been nice to go dancing, but they’ll be motivated enough to go all the way.

  • Pick: Louisville

5 Boston College at 1 USC

Boston College hasn’t won a road game versus a team west of the Mississippi River since the 2005-06 season when they beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater in a year they went to the Sweet 16. In fact, Boston College lost a December 2013 game at USC. I don’t seem them beating the Trojans in their average state they’re in right now.

  • Pick: USC

6 BYU at 2 Oklahoma State

BYU doesn’t have the talent or the experience in big games to contend with Oklahoma State. This one is an easy pick.

  • Pick: Oklahoma State

5 Washington at 1 Saint Mary’s

Putting Washington over Boise State in the First Round was a stretch. So, why not continue to stretch? That’s right! I’m taking Washington. And if you need some reassurance as to why I’m doing this, the last time all four one-seeds advanced to the Quarterfinal of the NIT was in 2007. Saint Mary’s will continue that trend by losing here.

  • Pick: Washington

6 UL-Lafayette at 2 Utah

Louisiana-Lafayette got their upset. Utah takes down the Ragin’ Cajuns.

  • Pick: Utah

Quarterfinal-

3 Oregon at 1 Notre Dame

The one thing that Oregon has going for them coming into this potential game is that they destroyed Ball State while Notre Dame lost on a last-second three-pointer from Tayler Persons. Other than that, I am just going to continue to ride high on how good Bonzie Colson is. In the 19 games Colson has played this season, he’s averaged 20.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, and 2.3 BPG. Oregon just doesn’t have a star like that.

  • Pick: Notre Dame

5 Nebraska at 2 Louisville

Louisville has some elite talent that some of the experts in college basketball can’t get enough of. This encounter should be a tight game from wire-to-wire, but eventually, Louisville will find a way to win with free throw shooting down the stretch from the likes of Quentin Snider.

  • Pick: Louisville

2 Oklahoma State at 1 USC

I think this will be a very entertaining Quarterfinal game between two of the most significant snubs from the NCAA Tournament. USC looks like a better shooting team on paper, but they still have very young talent that can be inconsistent at times when it counts. Oklahoma State’s Mitchell Solomon will be someone to watch as he goes up against Chimezie Metu of USC.

  • Pick: Oklahoma State

5 Washington at 2 Utah

I like to preach that it is tough to beat a team twice in a season. It’s almost impossible to beat a team three times in one year! Washington has lost to Utah twice in the 2017-18 basketball bonanza, so why should you go with Utah this time and go against everything I said in those first two sentences? Offensive efficiency. Utah is ranked 91 in the nation, which isn’t great. However, you’ll have to go all the way down to 174 to find Washington.

  • Pick: Utah

Semifinal-

2 Louisville vs. 1 Notre Dame

Louisville only played Notre Dame once this season in a game the Louisville won in 2OT, and that favors the Cardinals because they weren’t over-exposed to the Irish. The problem is, when Louisville played Notre Dame, the Irish were without Bonzie Colson. The case for the Cardinals in this game will be their size and their ability to win on the road.

  • Pick: Louisville

2 Oklahoma State vs. 2 Utah

This was a mistake when I filled out my bracket earlier. I didn’t want to change it, so I just went with it. (I don’t want to change it here either.)

  • Pick: Utah

Championship-

2 Louisville vs. 2 Utah

Notice how there aren’t any one-seeds in the NIT Championship? The last one-seed to win the thing was in 2014. Anyway, this should be a beautiful game between two teams that are trying to put up a banner. (Louisville wants this one especially if you consider how they had to take one down this year. Where are you at Pitino?) Louisville wins handily towards the end, sending their fans and ESPN home happy.

  • NIT Champion: Louisville

That’ll do it for my NIT Predictions. What did you think of my semifinal teams? What are some of your predictions? Be sure to tell us about it in the comment section below. Also, be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter: @PowerRank_More, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and follow us on our Instagram page for all of the latest information from Power Rankings and More.

Published on 3/12/18 at 9:55 PM EST.
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Matthew "Joneszee" Jones http://www.powerrankingsandmore.com

Core Group leader at Ball State Chi Alpha. I currently do PRAM on the side for fun.

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