Well, I've been at this since the 2005-06 season, but this is the first time I've gone beyond the NCAA field with my bracket projections. I figure after four years, it's time to take a look at the other men's postseason tournaments, which now number three.
The most well-known of the three is the National Invitation Tournament, which wraps up at New York's Madison Square Garden just before the Final Four. The NCAA took over the NIT starting with the 2006 event. Since then, it's become almost a mini-NCAA Tourney with a selection committee and an actual seeding process, including automatic bids.
The other two, the College Basketball Invitational (or CBI) and the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (aka the CIT) are pretty recent additions to the basketball postseason. The CBI has been held twice previously, while the CIT is entering its second season. These events started up partially as a response to the reduction of the NIT field from 40 to 32 teams in 2007. The The CIT has the additional goal of providing more postseason opportunities to schools outside of the major conferences.
Before you say four postseason tournaments is too much, let me throw some numbers at you.
- There are currently 347 schools who are full or transitional Division I members, of these only 129 or 37 percent will make the postseason with four tournaments.
- In what we used to call Division I-A football, 72 of the 120 teams will get to play in bowl games after the 2010 season (if new bowls in New York City and Dallas are approved). That's 60 percent.
- If you add the division formerly known as I-AA, who will send 24 of 124 teams to the postseason after 2010 (20 to the playoffs, two to the Gridiron Classic, two to the SWAC Championship), 96 of the 224 Division I football teams will play in the postseason. That's still a bit more than 39 percent, 2 percent more than basketball.
Now,. the biggest changes to these three fields will come during Championship Weeks, thanks to NIT auto bids. Regular season conference winners who lose in their conference tournaments get a guaranteed spot in the NIT, where they'll likely bump the teams on lines 7 and 8 of a NIT projection into another tournament.
But that isn't a concern for another six weeks or so. For now, here's how I see the three fields on Tuesday, January 19th. I'll update these on Tuesdays until we get closer to Selection Sunday.
Not surprisingly, the First Four Out from my Monday bracket are the top seeds in my first-ever NIT projection, and the Next Four Out make up the 2 line.
Naturally, these eight teams have the best chance of making their way out of the field of 32 over the next month and a half, but teams like Notre Dame, Michigan, Washington, and Cal, could move up as well. However, in the Huskies and Golden Bears' cases, they may need to rely on the Pac-10's NCAA auto bid at this point.
Old Dominion, currently in a four-way tie atop the CAA is another squad who could slide up based on what happens in their conference.
Western Kentucky is the team in the bottom half of the field with the best chance to move up. Had the Hilltoppers beaten Middle Tennessee Monday night, they would have been in position to jump into next week's NCAA projection as the Sun Belt leader. Now, they'll have to win at Troy and beat those same Blue Raiders at home and hope Arkansas State loses at least once in South Florida at the end of the week.
Champaign Region vs. Miami Region
Louisville Region vs. Evanston Region
Bids by League
Big East (5), Big 12 (5), ACC (3), Big Ten (3), SEC (3), Colonial (2), Conference USA (2), Missouri Valley (2), Pacific-10 (2), Atlantic 10, Ivy, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and WAC (1 each)
After the jump, I'll look at the CBI and CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
College Basketball Invitational
The CBI is the event of last resort for power conference teams, as the CIT doesn't invite them. The good news for the BCS conference schools is that this event will take teams that don't finish the regular season at .500. (For a good example, look at last season's champion, Oregon State.)
In a year when several traditional powers are having down years, thanks to young rosters (see Indiana, UCLA, Arizona), being able to play a few more games together could be a great opportunity. Even if the teams aren't as good as normal, the names will be there, which can help lend some credibility to an event that's only in its third season.
East Region vs. Midwest Region
South Region vs. West Region
(1) Boston College vs. (4) Houston
(2) Northeastern vs. (3) Illinois State
Bids by League
Pac-10 (3), Conference USA (2), ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Colonial, Horizon, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, SEC, West Coast (1 each)
This tournament is unique for two reasons. First, it's focused on giving more postseason opportunities to mid-major leagues. This includes the Great West, which won't get an auto bid to the NCAA Tournament until at least 2020. In the meantime, the conference winner, Texas Pan American in this projection, gets a CIT bid. Second, there is no fixed bracket. Matchups are determined after the completion of a round. That means I can only give you a list of first round matchups for this one.
First Round Matchups
Iona at Akron
IUPUI at Detroit
Morehead State at Fairfield
Northern Colorado at Nevada
South Alabama at George Mason
Texas Pan American at New Mexico State
Texas San Antonio at Southern Illinois
Western Carolina at Wright State
Bids by League
Horizon (2), Metro Atlantic (2), WAC (2), Big Sky, Colonial, Great West, Mid-American, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Southern, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt (1 each)