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2016 NIT Season Tip-Off Primer: Might One Of The Four Teams Follow In Villanova's Footsteps?

The Wildcats won this event in its first playing in Brooklyn, then returned in March to take their first steps toward a National Championship. It would be a surprise if one of the four teams entered in this season's edition matched Nova's success. But then again, we didn't expect a postseason run out of Jay Wright's team last fall.

2016 NIT Season Tip-Off Bracket
2016 NIT Season Tip-Off Bracket
ESPN Events

To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2016-17 Early Season Events hub.

What Is It?

The NIT Season Tip-Off (official website)

How Long Has This Event Been Around?

To recap this tournament's long history and its recent format changes, I again turn to last season's primer...

The Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association (MIBA), a consortium of five New York City schools and former owner of the postseason NIT, started the preseason edition in 1985 as a way to provide the season with a proper start. The format was rather simple-16 teams from 16 conferences would play a single-elimination tournament with the semifinals and finals at Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately, this setup was inherently uneven, as only the four teams that made it to New York would play four games. The eight first-round losers, who likely had to travel, would only play once.

In 2006, the NCAA assumed ownership of the preseason and postseason NITs to settle an antitrust lawsuit brought against it by the MIBA. It then attempted to tinker, first by changing the name from the "Preseason NIT" to "NIT Season Tip-Off." Preliminary rounds were moved to four neutral site, mirroring the NCAA Tournament (though Gonzaga and Butler both ended up playing in their home cities), and each participant was guaranteed at least two games. The experiment lasted for a year before games returned to campus.

Between 2007 and 2013, four power teams hosted regionals, which were individually contained four-team, two-round tournaments. Most of the time, the hosts advanced to New York. The exceptions came in 2008 (UAB won at Arizona), 2010 (VCU toppled Wake Forest), 2012 (Delaware stunned Virginia), and 2013 (Drexel got past Rutgers). Yes, three CAA members pulled off upsets in a four-year span.

Starting in 2008, the teams that were eliminated in the regional round were grouped into subregionals, where they would play two games against other eliminated squads, guaranteeing four games to every participant.

Despite the success CAA schools experienced and the potential of a pair of nationally-televised games at MSG, the NCAA increasingly experienced difficulty in filling the field, needing to dip into the Division II ranks to fill the 2012 and 2013 tournaments. The 2014 edition became a real mess, as only the St. John's-hosted regional was set to be filled. So, the NCAA automatically advanced the four hosts to MSG and built a patchwork schedule that included Division II schools and showcase games between the four Division I non-host schools at MSG on Thanksgiving Day, between the host schools' semifinals and finals.

In 2015, ESPN Events took over the management of the NIT Season Tip-Off from the NCAA.

When And Where Is It?

This will be the Tip-Off's second season away from its former home—Madison Square Garden. Brooklyn's Barclays Center will host the semifinals on Thanksgiving Day, November 24th and the finals on Friday, November 25th.

Next season, the renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum will host the NIT Season Tip-Off before it returns to Brooklyn in 2018.

Who's Playing?

Since last season's proposal for a new NIT Season Tip-Off format fell on deaf ears, this event has a slightly convoluted format for the second season in a row. First, the easy part—the four showcase/host teams will travel to Brooklyn to play out a bracket on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

Temple
Temple Owls (American)
vs.
Florida State Seminoles (ACC)
FSU
Illinois
Illinois Fighting Illini (Big Ten)
vs.
West Virginia Mountaineers (Big 12)
WVU

Here's the full bracket, courtesy of ESPN Events.

2016 NIT Season Tip-Off ESPN Events

To get all participants the full allotment of four exempt games, a quartet of visiting teams are also participating. However, instead of placing them into a separate bracket, all four will play two road games against the showcase teams, along with one home and one road game against a fellow visiting team.

Team Road Games Home Games
Detroit
Detroit Titans
(Horizon)
Illinois
Florida State
New Hampshire
Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan Jaspers
(MAAC)
Temple
Detroit
West Virginia
Winthrop
UNH
New Hampshire Wildcats
(AE)
Temple
West Virginia
Winthrop
Detroit
Winthrop
Winthrop Eagles
(Big South)
Manhattan
Florida State
Illinois
New Hampshire

Logos from SportsLogos.net

In total, this event is made up of 16 games—12 played at campus sites and four played in Brooklyn.

Did Any Of These Teams Make The NCAAs or NIT Last Season?

Both Temple and West Virginia reached the Big Dance. Both also fell in the First Round—to the Iowa Hawkeyes and Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, respectively, in (drumroll) Brooklyn. The Owls and Mountaineers will naturally want a happier Barclays Center experience this November.

Florida State fell to the Valparaiso Crusaders in the NIT's second round, while New Hampshire lost at that stage of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Winthrop didn't make the postseason, but that's only because they declined a CBI or CIT invite after dropping the Big South Tournament final to the UNC Asheville Bulldogs.

Have Any Of These Teams Made The Trip Before?

Only Manhattan and Winthrop have participated in an NIT Season Tip-Off over the past 10 seasons. In 2006, the Eagles lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Charlotte Regional final in a season where the NCAA experimented with playing the tournament's four preliminary pods at ostensibly neutral sites. Four seasons later, Winthrop went 1-3, losing both games at the regional hosted by the VCU Rams before topping the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (and losing to the Belmont Bruins) in Winston-Salem.

Manhattan lost to the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome in the first round of 2011's event (eventually won by SU), but they managed to top the Fresno State Bulldogs in a consolation pod hosted by the Colorado State Rams.

Who's Played In Other ESPN Events Recently?

While this will be the first ESPN-run event for Detroit, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Winthrop, the other four squads have participated in at least one previous tournament (Manhattan in the 2010 Old Spice Classic), though Florida State, Temple, and West Virginia have played in at least four over the past 10 seasons.

WVU has won two ESPN Events crowns (2009 in Anaheim and 2014 in San Juan), while FSU claimed the trophy in Orlando in 2009. While Temple helped launch the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in 2007 and Charleston Classic a season later, the Owls have yet to win a title in six previous appearances in ESPN tournaments.

Any Other Notable Recent Meetings?

There aren't many over the past five seasons, but a couple are notable.

Florida State topped Manhattan in its first Hall Of Fame Tip-Off home game in 2014—the only contest out of four that the Seminoles won in the event. The pair will meet again in 2016—not in this tournament, but in the Orange Bowl Classic in mid-December.

On February 28, 2013 Temple defeated Detroit by five in a Gotham Classic game that had to be rescheduled to two months after the original date due to weather.

Who Won Last Year?

The Villanova Wildcats rolled past the Stanford Cardinal and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to win the title in Brooklyn.

Did Any 2015 Entrants Make The NCAAs Or NIT?

Nova and the Green Bay Phoenix made the NCAAs, and to say the National Champs were more successful than the Horizon entrants would be a significant understatement. The Akron Zips joined Georgia Tech in the NIT, with the Ramblin' Wreck picking up two more wins than the MAC squad. One other participant reached the postseason, as the ETSU Buccaneers lost to the Oakland Golden Grizzlies in the Vegas 16 semifinals.

Will It Be On TV?

Three of the four games from Brooklyn will appear on ESPNU, with the final on ESPN2 on Black Friday afternoon. As for the campus-site games, rights to those will depend on the home team. That means the two Illinois home games could end up on BTN, much like Villanova's two home games last season appeared on Fox Sports outlets.

Who Do You Think Will Win?

Though the two NCAA squads will be favored, both FSU and Illinois could get themselves in position to contend for a bid, especially with a pair of wins in Brooklyn.

Semifinals

Florida State over Temple
West Virginia over Illinois

Finals

Consolation: Temple over Illinois
Championship: West Virginia over Florida State

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