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Cal Hoping For A National Invitational Tournament Bid Later Tonight

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[NorCalNick and Kodiak worked on this post with me.  Try to guess who wrote what!]

Well, we have the NCAA Selection show and the NIT Selection show today.  The NCAA Selection show is what everybody and their mom will be watching.  Let’s not fool ourselves, Cal will have no role in that particular delight.  Although we’ve had a successful season given that we lost something like 8 of our top 12 players from last year’s Pac10 championship team, we won’t make the NCAAs.  Sad, but true.

So, we get to focus on the NIT.  Yes, the NIT.  But what is the NIT?  And what can we expect for Cal’s chances in the NIT?  And when do we find out our ultimate fate? Tonight at 6 PM:

NEW YORK -- The field for the 74th Annual National Invitation Tournament, will be announced at 9 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPNU.

The Committee will convene in Indianapolis on Friday to continue the process of selections that has been ongoing throughout the basketball season. The 2011 field again will feature regular season conference champions not selected to the NCAA Championship by receiving automatic qualification to the NIT.

C.M. Newton, a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame has served as chair of the Committee since 2005, when the NCAA began operating the NIT. He is joined on the Committee by Rudy Davalos, Don DeVoe, Reggie Minton, Jack Powers, Les Robinson, Bob Weltlich and Carroll Williams.


Hmmm, Cam Newton is in charge of the NIT selection.  Is there anything that guy can’t do?  After the jump, let’s learn a little bit more about the NIT and see what Cal’s chances for selection are.  GO BEARS!


Let’s take a look at the selection process. This document (Caution: PDF) lays out the bylaws for selection

In reviewing that, the NIT Selection Committee first lists every single team in alphabetic order and then votes on who should be in the NIT.  Votes cannot be cast for a team that has an autobid to the NCAA Tourney or won their league’s regular season crown, but will not be going to the NCAA Tourney.  The latter is because every team that wins their regular season crown, but does not go to the NCAA Tourney gets an autobid to the NIT!

Other than that caveat, NIT participants are selected and seeded in the same manner as NCAA participants.  Via secret balloting, the committee narrows the field to a group of teams on the ‘nominatation board.’  From there they rank the available teams via a gradual voting process, and then go about placing the teams into the bracket.  Like the NCAAs, the committee strives to keep teams from the same conference from meeting prior to the regional finals, which allows them to move teams one seed higher or lower than their ‘true’ seed.  This could potentially impact Cal, particularly if USC fails to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large.

The NIT also strives to keep teams within a ‘region’ to limit travel distances and costs, and also to avoid regular season rematches.  This might come in to play because the Bears have already played New Mexico and Boston College (in addition to USC and WSU), who are all listed as potential NIT teams.

Here is the Wikipedia page.  It lays out a lot of the history.

The NIT and NCAA used to be separate entities.  Previously considered the "left-overs" or "Not Invited Tournament," the NIT struggled for respectability and the selection process often paid more attention to attendance than to actual merit.  After the NCAA bought out the NIT back in 2005, there was a return to credibility as the selection process began following more structured guidelines.  Specifically, the selection committee was directed to "select the best available teams to fill the NIT field."  

What does that mean for Cal fans?  That’s right.  The selection committee shall screw over the University of California at Berkeley in whichever way hurts the most, as often as they can, and with extreme prejudice, in their mercy and wisdom.  Did anyone else just look to see where Texas is expected to end up?  (Don’t worry - they’re slotted for the Big Dance with an RPI of 13)  Cal is ranked #76 by RPI (.5561) and #19 strength of schedule.

Right now the website ‘NIT-ology’ has Cal listed as the highest 4 seed, and most importantly ahead of 10 other at-large teams.  Here is their proposed bracket.  You can see there that NIT-ology states that Cal will face New Mexico in the Missouri State regional.  If true, that would bode well, as Cal defeated New Mexico earlier in the year. Then, we would probably take on Missouri State. (*Update:  Now we're slated to take on Mississippi.)

This is just a projection of one website. If their analysis is to be trusted that puts the Bears safely into the field of 32.  There was some concern that the Bears might get squeezed out with so many regular season conference champions losing in their conference tournaments.  Evidently Cal’s profile is still strong enough to remain safely in the field, though I won’t exhale til the field is announced tonight.

The concern is that there is a record number of mid-major programs who won their league championship, but are losing in the championship game.  NITology states.

Two more NIT at large bids disappear, as one seeds Bethune Cookman and Texas Southern both fall in their conference tournaments. We now have a record number of NIT automatic bids -- at least 9, and as many as 11 should UAB and Missouri St. both fall short of the big dance. We will try to get the field updated as the results come in today...

Their analysis is now slightly dated.  For example, McNeese State won the Southland Conference, but did not win the autobid.  If it does not make the NCAAs, it gets an automatic bid to the NIT, which could potentially knock Cal down out of the 4 seed.  I guess we’ll find out later today!

Regular season conference champions who don’t receive NCAA bids receive automatic bids to the NIT.  The current NIT automatic bid teams are as follows: Milwaukee (Horizon), Saint Mary’s (WCC), George Mason (CAA), Coastal Carolina (Big South), College of Charleston (SoCon), Fairfield (MAAC), Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt), Missouri State (MVC), Murray State (OVC), Vermont (America East).  George Mason and Saint Mary’s are almost guaranteed to get at-large berths in the NCAA Tournament.

So, there we go.  Tune it tonight at 6 PM PST to ESPNU to see if and where Cal will end up.  We'll have an open thread to discuss all the action.  So, keep it locked here!