You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

How the last 40 NIT semifinalists fared the next season

With Georgia Tech having played three NIT games, and playing a fourth Tuesday night in New York in the semifinals against Cal State Bakersfield, it’s an easy conclusion to draw.

Playing in a win-or-go-home atmosphere and simply getting more time on the court will serve the Yellow Jackets well going forward. It’s what Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton thought in 2014, when the Seminoles reached the NIT semifinals.

“I think this year will be a springboard for us to continue our program in the right direction,” Hamilton said after the game.

The following year, the Seminoles finished 17-16, ending a streak in which they had made either the NCAA or NIT for nine consecutive seasons. (Losing possibly their best player early in the season after he signed with an agent had something to do with it.)

Making the NIT semifinals has proven to be the springboard that Tech hopes it will be going into the 2017-18 season, but not always. Of the 40 NIT semifinalists between 2007 and 2016, 18 made the NCAA Tournament the next season.

Every team was not in the same situation as Tech is, with a new coach and a number of key players expected back and a clear eye on the future. Some were mid-major teams with lower ceilings than the Jackets would expect to have going forward. Some were power-conference teams playing for coaches whose tenures were nearing their end. (Power-conference teams were 11-for-23 in NCAA berths the following season.)

Still, it’s a reminder that each season is an entity unto its own and that momentum doesn’t always push a team as far as might be hoped. Another example is San Diego State, which beat Tech last year in the NIT quarterfinals. The Aztecs were disappointed to miss the NCAA Tournament, ending a six-year streak, but ended up making the semifinals.

They went into this season picked to win the Mountain West. Instead, the Aztecs struggled through their worst season since 2004-05, finishing sixth in the league and missing the postseason entirely. An article in the San Diego Union-Tribune observed that the team “toppled under the weight of unrealized promise.”

The challenge for the Jackets next year will be building upon this year’s accomplishment with the same determination and without key pieces. Point guard Josh Heath’s value to the team as a distributor and catalyst is understated. Forward Quinton Stephens made such strides this season that coaches have realized the need to find a player who can fill his role as a rebounder capable of double-double games. Guard Corey Heyward has given the team defensive toughness and been a model of a team-first player. Even forward Rand Rowland, a walk-on put on scholarship in January, has given the team a lift with his energy.

On the other hand, what Tech aspires to is entirely possible. Miami coach Jim Larranaga would tell you as much. In 2015, Larranaga’s fourth season, the Hurricanes missed out on the NCAA Tournament but then made the NIT finals. The following year, Miami was in the Sweet 16.

“I thought, No. 1, the team had a chip on its shoulder the next year because we didn’t make the NCAA Tournament and was bound and determined to make the NCAA,” Larranaga said. “But I thought we played with a lot more confidence having gone to the finals of the NIT, and we really developed some good chemistry.”

Of the 40 NIT semifinalists of the past 10 years, a team that particularly resembles Tech and its situaiton is the 2010-11 Colorado Buffaloes. Tad Boyle took over a team that had been to the NCAA Tournament once in the previous 13 seasons and was picked to finish ninth in its final season in the Big 12. Colorado finished in a tie for fifth and, after just missing the NCAA Tournament, capped the season by making it to New York, where the Buffaloes lost in the semifinals.

“This program is in good hands, and we have a lot of guys in that locker room coming back, a few guys that couldn’t play this year that are going to carry this program to places it’s never been before,” said Levi Knutson, a senior on that team, following its semifinals loss.

Knutson was right.

Since then, Colorado has made the NCAA Tournament four out of the past six years, an unprecedented run of success. As Tech gears up for a possible NIT championship and a hard-to-believe finish to Pastner’s first season, the aim is the same.

“I think for us the continuation of understanding that what we need to do to get to the NCAA Tournament – we’ve got more practices, got more games, we’ve gotten a lot of good stuff out of it,” Pastner said. “And the exposure. We’ll be able to build on this as we get into the offseason.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

New York bowler rolls perfect game in 86.9 seconds
New York bowler rolls perfect game in 86.9 seconds

CORTLAND, N.Y. — Bowling a perfect game is difficult, but rolling a 300 game in less than 90 seconds is mind-boggling. >> Read more trending news Ben Ketola of Preble, New York, rolled 12 consecutive strikes at 281 Bowl in Cortland on April 5, racing from lane to lane and finishing in 86.9 seconds, reported. The 23-year-old...
1876 documents that launched MLB headed for auction
1876 documents that launched MLB headed for auction

It could be called the Ten Commandments of Major League Baseball, even though it’s 74 pages long. Or perhaps, since it has just been discovered, it could be baseball’s version of the Dead Sea Scrolls. >> Read more trending news Regardless, the 1876 “Founding Documents and Original Constitution of Major League Baseball&rdquo...
Hawks notes: Schroder wants to work with Wall in offseason
Hawks notes: Schroder wants to work with Wall in offseason

Dennis Schroder and John Wall have done plenty of on-court trash talking during the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series between the Hawks and Wizards. Schroder hopes there will be more civil dialog following the season. The Hawks young point guard said he has learned a lot from his All-Star Wizards counterpart and would like to continue to...
Amidst war of words, Millsap enjoying every minute of playoff series
Amidst war of words, Millsap enjoying every minute of playoff series

Paul Millsap is having fun. Despite being called a crybaby. The Eastern Conference first-round playoff series between the Hawks and Wizards has featured one dramatic turn after another. It’s enough to make the most ardent soap opera viewer jealous. The NBA postseason often features physical battles and increased trash talk but this series has...
Braves lose sixth straight as Phillies hammer bullpen
Braves lose sixth straight as Phillies hammer bullpen

The Phillies flailed at Mike Foltynewicz’s sliders and curveballs for much of the day. His Braves teammates did the same against Zach Eflin’s fastball-heavy offerings until, finally, outfielder Matt Kemp knocked a solo homer to give Foltynewicz a lead in the seventh inning. But the Phillies tied the game against Foltynewicz in the bottom...
More Stories