Bill Carmody said in his postgame that he expected Northwestern to make the NIT. That’s a nice thought, but I doubt Bill Carmody really spends much time analyzing the NIT selection process. Those that do, NITology and The Bracket Project both say NU isn’t likely to get an NIT bid. That’s disappointing, but it’s not unreasonable. In fact, unlike last season when I pretty much called the NIT selection committee a collection of fools for not making NU a top-4 seed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised or upset if they pass on NU this season. As of Friday, 7 conference champs from 1-bid leagues had lost in their conference tournaments. As a result, 7 of the 8 spots in the NIT for 7 or 8-seeds are essentially filled. Unless Northwestern truly passes the so called “eye-ball test” because they are a Big Ten team with 20 wins who beat Purdue and Illinois in January, I doubt the NIT is going to invite them and make them a 6-seed. Heck, even Illinois State who at 22-10 seemed a lock for at least a 6-seed in the NIT is now in danger of dropping to the CBI because of the influx of conference tourney losers.
To be totally honest, I bleed as much purple as anyone, and it’s painful to say, but I don’t think I’d vote for Northwestern were I in the committee room with C.M. Newton and NIT Selection Committee. What exactly is Northwestern’s case? Essentially it rests on 20 wins in 33 games and the fact they have wins over Purdue, Illinois, and Notre Dame. The problem as I see it is all those wins occurred at home or on a neutral court and the most recent was January 23rd. In fact, half of NU’s 20 wins occurred before the calendar even flipped to 2010. Allegedly, the selection committees have stopped worrying about a team’s record in their last 10 games, but I think that’ll still come into play as far as the human element. Committee members, just like any fan, know that Northwestern hasn’t exactly been trending upwards late in the year. That makes them potentially a very quick exit and not the competitive team a committee wants to see in the postseason. NU’s record on the road is also problematic. The selection committee has to consider wins away from home and while NU has a win at N.C. State (who will also be competing for an NIT berth) they really haven’t performed away from Welsh-Ryan Arena. They are 2-8 in true road games and 5-9 overall away from home. Even worse, NU’s RPI is at 113. That’s not impressive compared to a team like Texas Tech who with an RPI of 68 is projected into the same 5-seed NU received last year.
I guess the good news is that because of the NITs automatic bids the CBI and CIT will feature a number of “name” teams. The odds are that Alabama, Harvard, former NU opponents N.C. State and Iowa State, and perhaps even North Carolina will be shutout of the NIT. That could make for some very interesting matchups for either the CBI or CIT which will hopefully occur at Welsh-Ryan Arena.