Sunday, March 12, 2023

Quiet Quitting the NIT

One thing that always comes up around Selection Sunday is whether or not power conference teams, especially “blue bloods”, will decline NIT invites.

Outside of the COVID seasons (2020 was canceled and 2021 was weird) this happens much more rarely than teams would have you believe. There are very few cases of power conference teams explicitly deciding to remove themselves from consideration for the NIT. (Though not showing up on game day is a whole different story.)

On the other hand, it has become clear to me over the years that the NIT definitely considers a team’s desire to play in the tournament when selecting bubble teams. For power conference teams not in the first 10 teams or so on the S-curve that means there is a way to quiet quit: Signal to the NIT selection committee that you’re done. How? Say you’re more injured than the public realizes, downplay your resume, or send a message through a back channel. There are lots of options.

Does this mean that North Carolina isn’t going to be in the NIT bracket at 10 pm tonight? No. If that’s the case then UNC and Hubert Davis will have explicitly quit on the season. The Tar Heels won’t get an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, but their resume is too good to miss the NIT no matter what selection criteria is used. 

The same goes for Michigan, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Clemson and Oregon. The Wolverines, Cowboys, Badgers, Tigers and Ducks are too close to the NCAA cut line for their opt out to be anything but explicit. (The preceding two paragraphs also apply to any team that falls unexpectedly from the NCAA Tournament.) If those teams don’t put out a release saying they’re done for the season after the NCAA Selection Show airs at 6 pm, I will assume they’re going to appear on the NIT bracket at 10 pm on ESPNU.

Beyond that though? It’s hard to know. The reporting I have done suggests that most of the power conference teams projected to the NIT want to play, but I am not sourced across the entirety of college basketball.

If teams towards the bottom of the bracket didn’t want to play, it would open additional spots in the NIT. (And it’d be hard to know whether a team opted out or just wasn't selected by the committee. The best historical example of this is the 2016 LSU team with Ben Simmons.)

Texas Tech is the only NIT bubble team that has stated they won’t play in the postseason. The others might just quiet quit.

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