Bubble Teams Should Embrace NIT

Come Sunday at 6 PM, there will be great angst for many coaches and players as the NCAA will announce the 65 team field for the 2008 NCAA Tournament.  And, like every year, there will be a team or two that will surprise everyone by getting in and there will be a team or two that will be surprised to be left out.

It is the snubbed teams that will bother me most on Sunday evening.  They will complain, argue, moan and groan that their resume was better than many teams that got in and Dick Vitale will scream that they should have gotten in.  Vitale thinks every bubble team should get in and if that did happen, the NCAAs would have 128 teams in it. 

The difference between Vitale and antagonist Doug Gottlieb is that Gottlieb has a spine, takes a stand, and doesn’t worry about ruffling feathers.  Vitale is the pleaser and wants everybody to like him.  When you ask Gottlieb “should Florida or Massachusetts get in?” he will give you an answer.  When you ask Vitale, he will say, “both.”

After the dust clears, the sportstalk nation will spend all of Monday ripping the committee for seeding, for leaving the wrong teams out and that will overshadow the actual tournament itself.  In fact, most talkers would rather interview the coach of the snubbed team over the coach of a team that actually gets in.

I would love to hear coaches complain less and embrace more.  Rather than say that their cache was better than others, why not say that they are happy to be invited to the NIT and that they look forward to playing in the NIT.  Not everybody can play in the NCAA, and somebody has to play in the NIT.  The only coach that embraced the NIT was Bobby Knight, and that is good for college basketball.  In this case, more coaches should follow Knight’s lead.

That’s not going to happen.  The Jim Boeheims of the world are not paid to play and even win the NIT.  Dave Odom coached South Carolina to back-to-back NIT championships, but that probably isn’t enough to save his job.  To hear Boeheim, say that “if we don’t make the NCAA, then it’s not a good season, period,” is unsettling.  At 19-13, he should consider an NIT invite a positive for his young players.  If he doesn’t feel this way, the NIT should leave Syracuse out of its tournament, too.

Few bubble teams last very long in the NCAA anyway, so why waste our breath talking about them.  As the saying goes, if you’re a bubble team, it’s your own fault, you probably should have played better during the year to avoid it. 

But, you’ll never hear that on Sunday.

John Furgele


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