Friday was a good day for teams hoping to get into the NIT as an at-large team. All nine teams from presumptive one-bid leagues that played Friday won to advance either to their conference finals or semifinals. That’s good news for Georgia Tech and other teams hoping to make it into the NIT as at-large teams.
Going into Saturday’s games, there remain five teams that are strongly likely (and a sixth, Illinois State, that is also possible) to take the NIT’s automatic bid given to regular-season conference champions who don’t receive at-large bids to the NCAA tournament.
There are 11 top-seeded teams that will play Saturday. If, for example, seven of them win their league titles, that would mean a total of nine (possibly 10) spots would be taken up with automatic bids, leaving 23 (or 22) spots in the 32-team field for at-large teams. (The average over the last five years has been 12, according to nycbuckets.com.)
That would give Tech a fighting shot. Because of its record (16-15 not counting the win over Division II Tusculum), weak nonconference schedule (strength of schedule is 267th) and finish (losing five of past seven), I don’t think the Jackets are a lock, despite an 8-10 record in the ACC and wins over North Carolina, Florida State, Notre Dame and VCU. For what it's worth, NYC Buckets NIT bracketologist John Templon wrote that the Jackets are not in the field as of the end of play Friday , and that's a field with only six teams taking automatic bids.
Teams for Tech fans to root for Saturday:
America East – Vermont over Albany
Big Sky – North Dakota over Weber State
Big West – UC Irvine over UC Davis
Conference USA – Middle Tennessee State over Marshall
Ivy League – Princeton over Penn (semifinal)
MAC – Akron over Kent State
MEAC – North Carolina Central over Norfolk State
Mountain West – Nevada over Colorado State
Southland – New Orleans over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
SWAC – Texas Southern over Alcorn State
Sun Belt – UT Arlington over Texas State (semifinal)
WAC – Cal State Bakersfield over New Mexico State
Of note: Colorado State (21-10, RPI: 66) may have solidified an NIT at-large berth with its run to the Mountain West finals. The same might be said of New Mexico State (24-5, RPI: 64). Middle Tennessee State would likely make the NCAA tournament even if it loses to Marshall. However, having two Conference USA teams in the NCAA field would bump one bubble team down to the NIT and thus move Tech down one spot.