In the past it might have been easy to overlook the NIT, but that’s foolish at this point. The ludicrous amount of talent in college basketball is forcing some great teams out of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and pushing them into the National Invitation Tournament, with 2023 boasting one of the most impactful fields we’ve seen in some time, with huge fanbases dancing in March’s other tournament.
This year’s NIT can’t be discussed without addressing the 10,000 pound elephant in the room: North Carolina. There’s no question the Tar Heels deserved to be one of the first four out of the NCAA Tournament. Hubert Davis’ second year as head coach was very different to the first, with UNC struggling to a middling record in the ACC, a far cry from their dramatic, unpredictable run to the National Championship game a year ago.
Now they’re taking their ball and going home, literally — North Carolina got ahead of the NIT announcement to reject a bid and prepare for next season.
The runaway favorite in the NIT has to be Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights were unfairly snubbed for the NCAA tournament despite having one of the best cases in the country for an at-large bid. This team ranked 35th in the KenPom rankings, and had signature wins against some of the best teams in the country, all of whom are in the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.
Another team to watch will be Clemson. The Tigers finished 64th in the KenPom rankings. The team’s offense flowing almost entirely through center P.J. Hall may have held the team back at times, but they remain a team loaded with talent, particularly on the defensive end. This really shined through back in January, when the Tigers grinded out a win against eventual ACC Champions Duke, holding the Blue Devils to 64 points.
Keep an eye on Oklahoma State too, who were a victim of circumstance this season as much as anything. With five teams in the Big 12 finishing in the Top 25 it was near impossible for a team on the outside to make headway. The Cowboys have an extremely solid roster, with Kalib Boone being one of the best scorers in a loaded conference, but he struggled to make an impact down the stretch. There’s a very real chance this team finds its way again and makes a big NIT run.
Top Left Bracket
1 Oklahoma State
4 Washington State
3 North Texas
2 Sam Houston
Bottom Left Bracket
Top Right Bracket
3 New Mexico
Bottom Right Bracket