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NIT Tournament 2015: Bracket Format, Preview for Madison Square Garden Showcase

Published by Bleacher Report on Mon, 16 Mar 2015

For a majority of the favorites, their invitation to the NIT was akin to a participation ribbon. Building their respective resumes all season,Colorado State, Old Dominion, Richmond and Temple each had a relatively reasonable expectation to earn a call-up to the Big Dance.Instead, they'll be watching on as the likes of UCLA, Ole Miss and Indiana do battle with arguably inferior resumes. As the teams were announced, it was easy to understand the palpable disappointment pervading through each locker room.Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy, who cut his press conference to two minutes,told reporters:This is going to be brief.I'm not going to take any questions, because I don't want to say the wrong thing...something that I'm going to regret.The disappointment is that you have 12 players in (the locker room) crying. We're certainly one of the best 68 teams in the country. Obviously, the committee didn't feel that way. And our team moves on.Note:Full 2015 NIT bracket available atNCAA.com.Making it all the more painful is Colorado State's No. 1 seed. By rule, the last four teams not included in the NCAA field are given automatic top seeds in the NIT if they choose to participate. That means all four teams know how close they were to getting into the Big Dance."It's an agonizing situation to wonder what's going to happen all throughout this day," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said, per Luke Meredith of The Associated Press. "Now the angst is over, the disappointment reigns, but hope is still out there that we can finish this season strong with another tournament."Beyond disappointment, teams participating in the NIT are subject to being the guinea pigs of NCAA-sanctioned rule changes. The tournament plans on featuring a 30-second shot clock rather than the standard 35 seconds and will expand the restricted-area arc to four feet rather than three.The NIT has always been recognized as a pioneer event in postseason college basketball and at this key time in college basketballs history and evolution, it is fitting that the NIT can help provide valuable analysis on the potential effect of these experimental rules changes, NCAA Vice President of Mens Basketball Championships Dan Gavitt said in a February press release.While an interesting choice to use the event as an experimentation hub, it should help create somedifferentiationfrom theNCAA tournament. In certain respects, the NIT's reduction to a consolation prize is sad. It was once the most coveted championship in the nation. To see grown men actually crying about having to play in a tournament with such historical weight is disappointing.That said, implementing these new rules might help turn the NIT into an incubator for innovation. The 35-second shot clock was a relic when it was introduced. No other form of basketballnot even the NCAA's own women's sideallows for such a long possession period after high school. Even some high school state commissions have gone down to the 30-second shot clock.The shot-clock reduction is a long overdue change. Overcoaching and offensive conservatism can make college basketball borderline unwatchable at timeseven when there are two talented team executing the game plans. If the NIT teams can provide a more entertaining form of the sport, the event could become a driving force into the future.For now, there are enough solid basketball teams in the event to make it worth watching. There are five teams (Vanderbilt, Stanford, Texas A&M, Richmond and Miami) who rank higher in Ken Pomeroy's Pythagorean rating than the worst-ranked at large (Indiana) in the NCAA field. Only one of those teams is a No. 1 seed in the NIT; heck, Vanderbilt is a No. 5."For this young team, this is very meaningful and a very good experience moving forward," Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said, per Adam Sparks of TheTennessean."This will give our young team invaluable practice time and tournament experience."The effect of additional practice time is no joke. The NIT has increasingly become a spot where burgeoning young teams get their tournament sea legs before taking the next step a year later. SMU is a No. 6 seed a year after being the NIT runner-up. Iowa and Baylor have made the Dance each of the last two seasons following their 2013 clash in the title game. The first inkling of Gregg Marshall building Wichita State into a national power was its 2011 NIT championship.Even if failing to make the NCAA tournament is a disappointment, a deep run in the NIT is the first step toward building to the future. It'll be interesting to see which teams are able to overcome that initial heartbreak to ascend over these next few weeks. As we find out, it'd be smart for all of us to continue keeping tabs on those squads heading into 2015-16.Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter
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