Earlier I went through the entire NCAA men’s basketball tournament and picked each game based off which school I felt would win in football. People seemed to like it, and I even had one suggestion to do the same for the NIT.
So I did the same with the NIT.
The NIT is set up differently than the NCAA Tournament with no geographically designated regions. Instead, we have a 32-team field, broken into four un-named regions. For the purposes of this breakdown, I will give each region a number, and move counter-clockwise according to this bracket. Starting in the upper left of the bracket will be Region 1. Temple is the one-seed here. Region 2 will have Richmond as the top seed, Region 3’s top seed is Old Dominion and last will be Colorado State as the top seed in Region 4. Got it? Let’s go.
Temple gets the top seed in the region but their path to the NIT semifinals will be a tough one. The Owls get by in-state FCS program Bucknell in the first round, but they come up short against another Pennsylvania team in the second round. Pittsburgh comes out on top here after getting an easy draw of George Washington (no football). The Panthers have the upper hand against the Owls in the cross state battle and move on.
In the bottom half of the region we will quickly see how Texas A&M will be a force to reckon with. The Aggies cruise past FCS power Montana in the first round and slip by Louisiana Tech in the second round, after La. Tech picked up a round one victory against Central Michigan. Texas A&M advances to take on Pittsburgh in an ACC-SEC match-up. The Aggies have a more explosive offense to get by the Panthers after a sluggish start by each. Texas A&M goes to the semifinal round out of Region 1.
This is a fun region, and a nearly impossible draw for top seed Richmond. After the Spiders power past St. Francis Brooklyn (no football), Richmond is paired up against Arizona State, with the Sun Devils topping UConn in the first round. Arizona State has a smooth ride for a couple of games, but it gets tough fast.
In the bottom half of the bracket, Alabama is the clear favorite. The Crimson Tide get Illinois in the first round, but even on the road the Illini are no match for Alabama. Alabama makes quick work of Illinois and then faces the Miami Hurricanes in the second round! Miami got there by dispatching of FCS North Carolina Central out of the MEAC. Alabama vs. Miami sounds juicy, and it is, but Alabama is on a higher level than the Hurricanes right now and it shows with the Tide shutting down Miami to reach the regional final against Arizona State with a chance to play in the semifinals.
Arizona State pulls some tricks on offense, but Alabama adjusts and once again shuts down its opposition. Alabama powers its way to New York, where they will eventually square off with SEC West foe Texas A&M.
The left side of the bracket appears to have some heavy hitters in the bunch. The same cannot be said for Region 3 in the NIT. Old Dominion, UTEP and Tulsa are the only FBS programs in the bunch, which is good news for schools like William & Mary and Illinois State.
Old Dominion, the top seed in the region, gets by a respectable effort from Charleston Southern and sets up a match-up against Illinois State. Coming off a run to the FCS championship game and a first-round victory over Green Bay (no football), Illinois State musters up just enough to pull the “upset” over the FBS Monarchs to advance to the third round. UTEP draws a favorable match-up against woeful Murray State in the first round and the Miners move on to play the winner of Tulsa vs. William & Mary. This one goes down to the wire, but Tulsa manages to hold on for a wild victory over FCS William & Mary. Former Conference USA foes are paired together in round two and UTEP comes out on top over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
Illinois State is not done working some magic though and the Redbirds pull off one more victory over an FBS program as UTEP’s offense is non-existent. Illinois State heads to New York out of Region 3!
The fourth region, in the upper right of your NIT bracket, appears to be more formidable than Region 3, although the heavy favorites remain on the left half of the bracket. Colorado State, just missing the cut for the big dance, takes the top seed in the region and gets a decent fight from FCS threat South Dakota State. The Rams move on to take on the SEC’s Vanderbilt in round two. The Commodores received a favorable draw against a St. Mary’s team that does not play football, but the extra rest does them no good against the Rams. Colorado State takes its second straight game.
In the bottom half of this region, Stanford quickly asserts itself as the team to beat in the region. The Cardinal pound UC Davis from the Big Sky into submission and have an easy go of things against Rhode Island. Rhode Island opened with a win over Iona (no football) but the FCS program was no match for Stanford. The Cardinal defense has set the tone early, but Colorado State gives them a battle for the right to go to New York.
Despite a valiant effort from Colorado State, Stanford’s defense once again gets the job done and the Cardinal offense takes advantage of a strong running game to wear down Colorado State to reach the semifinal.
Three power conference programs and one FCS force have reached New York. In one semifinal we have Stanford up against the Cinderella of the NIT, Illinois State. In the other we have SEC West rivals Alabama and Texas A&M. Vegas has already determined Alabama to be the team to beat here, and for good reason. Alabama takes some jabs from Texas A&M’s offense, but the Crimson Tide put together the 60 minutes of football the Aggies are not equipped for on this stage. Alabama sets aside their division rivals and moves on to the championship game.
Stanford once again has no problem doing away with its opponent. No team has had as easy a path to the championship game as Stanford, who has now beaten three mid-majors on its way to the championship game.
In a battle of defensive styles, Alabama and Stanford turn in the kind of match-up most anyone would expect. Scoring opportunities come at a premium, but Alabama takes advantage more successfully than Stanford can. Alabama strikes first and never trails as the Crimson Tide top the Cardinal in New York to win the NIT.