Anyone agonizing over the NIT chances for the Bulls men's and women's teams probably should consider the bright side.
At least there’s something over which to agonize.
For the first time in seven years, the men (19-13) have posted a winning regular season and remain in contention for more competition of some sort. The women (18-15), who had three starters on the shelf by early January, somehow rallied to finish three games above .500.
Few could argue that both deserve to keep playing, and both likely will, but whether it’s in the NIT depends on which team you’re discussing.
The women stand a much better chance at the NIT, mainly because the women’s version of that tournament features 64 teams, twice as many as the men’s.
To be sure, the Bulls’ RPI (115) won’t do them any favors. But a top-35 RPI win against UCLA, and their valiant showing in a 57-47 home loss to UConn less than two weeks ago, certainly will.
Also bolstering their chances is the fact the Bulls average more than 3,200 fans for home games, an appealing number for a tourney that wants to sell tickets. Still, if USF doesn’t make the field, the 16-team Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) remains a possibility.
The men’s NIT odds appear far more bleak.
For a reasonable shot at the 32-team field, the Bulls probably had to do some damage in the American Athletic Conference tournament, where they fell to UConn in Thursday’s opening round.
Further hurting their cause is an NIT provision (in both the men’s and women’s tournaments) that awards automatic berths to conference regular season champions who don’t win their league tournament and don’t receive an NCAA Tournament bid.
Already, a number of mid-major regular season champs (Lipscomb, Campbell, Hofstra, Wright State) have been knocked off in their respective tournaments, and appear locked in to the NIT, further reducing the number of at-large berths.
As a result, the Bulls’ best postseason hopes lie in the 16-team College Basketball Invitational (CBI), which is believed to require a five-figure entry fee in the neighborhood of $50,000. The 20-team CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) also exists, though it’s geared almost exclusively toward mid-major programs.
The Bulls men should learn their fate Sunday night, following the NCAA selection show. The women will learn theirs Monday evening.
Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.