NOTE: A new NIT bracket has been posted. You can find it here.
If you haven’t been following Conference USA, because you don’t care about the NIT bubble, you might not know what went down last night on the final night of the regular season. Four teams tied for first place at 13-3.
What’s even crazier is that none of them are the host for the conference tournament! That honor goes to fifth-seeded UTEP. What the top four seeds (Louisiana Tech, Tulsa, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss) do earn is a double-bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. UTEP has to play one round earlier.
It’s a good thing too, because otherwise the Miners might be the conference tournament favorite. I ran my Monte Carlo simulation for the Conference USA tournament 10,000 times and these were the results the computer spit out.
Man this tournament is going to be fun. Why is it important to the NIT? Well, by virtue of being awarded the top seed in the tournament Louisiana Tech has an automatic bid to the NIT. The Bulldogs, who are 25-6 overall and a really good team, actually wouldn’t need it. They would be in the tournament on merit anyways, but I guess it’s nice to have. The other teams in the top five are all hoping to either a) Earn the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament or b) Make the NIT field. Right now I have UTEP and Middle Tennessee at the bottom of the bracket, with Southern Miss – a nominal NCAA tournament bubble team – safely in. Continuing to beat up on each other during the conference tournament will probably have an impact of these standings. Here though is my projected NIT bracket through Thursday night’s action.
Note: If you’re a fan of Maryland you probably want to go check out this bracket by The Bracket Project from a few days ago. It has UMD safely into the NIT field. I honestly can’t figure out how. The Terrapins don’t have a single victory over a Top 50 team even though they play in a power conference and they have 13 losses to teams in the Top 100. They had chances to beat good teams. They couldn’t do it. That’s not a postseason team. (Or at best it’s a CBI team.)
Last 6 Teams Into NCAA tournament: Providence, Georgetown, Dayton, Arkansas, Nebraska, Stanford
Projected NIT Bracket (ALL CAPS is an automatic bid):
8. Indiana St.
4. N.C. State
2. St. John’s
5. West Virginia
7. Oregon St.
6. Boise St.
8. HIGH POINT
5. Saint Mary’s
2. Florida State
8. Middle Tennessee
4. Southern Miss
5. Ole Miss
7. San Francisco***
*Illinois, while seeded fourth, can’t host an NIT game because their arena is undergoing renovations.
**Georgia was dropped a seed line from its true seed (5) to accommodate bracket regulations
***San Francisco was dropped a seed line from its true seed (6) to accommodate geographic considerations
Also Considered: Akron, Buffalo, Cleveland St., Eastern Michigan, Maryland, Mercer, Miami (FL), Missouri St., New Mexico St., Santa Barbara, Texas A&M, Towson, Wake Forest, Wyoming
Update 3/7 at 10:38 p.m.: Two things happened on Friday that changed the bracket. One was that High Point became the first automatic bid into the NIT. That was easy. The second was that Western Michigan won the MAC’s automatic bid and the top seed. They’ve been moved into the NCAA tournament, which bumped Toledo down and caused a humongous mess. That’s changed a bunch of seeding. Ultimately it pushed UTEP to the 8 seed line and puts them in quite a bit of danger. High Point’s inclusion kicked Texas A&M out.
The next bracket comes out on Monday morning. There will probably some auto bids by then. Expect about nine teams to need one. You can figure out what teams are up for it by checking out our postseason tracking page.