There is going to be a lot of postseason basketball for the Big Ten this year. Seven teams were selected for the NCAA Tournament, highlighted by the Purdue Boilermakers who earned a No. 4 seed in the Midwest Region.
Although, everyone wants to earn their way into the Big Dance, the NIT is a nice consolation prize for teams missing the cut. This year, the Big Ten will send three teams to the NIT.
As usual, the National Invitational Tournament will feature 32 teams, with the semi-final and championship rounds taking place at ‘the Mecca’ of college basketball, Madison Square Garden. The first three rounds will be played at campus sites.
Unlike normal years, the NIT will experiment with a few rule changes this year, including playing four segments instead of two halves.
Here are the three teams who earned their way into the NIT.
-Indiana Hoosiers (18-15) - No. 3 seed
Three months ago, no one would have thought the Indiana Hoosiers would be relegated to the NIT, but that’s where we currently stand. After experiencing a monumental collapse, the Hoosiers finished the year with an 18-15 record, losing nine of their final 13 games.
It doesn’t look like things will get any easier for Indiana in the NIT, as they drew one of the tougher matchups in the tournament. Instead of getting a mid-major school in the first round, the Hoosiers will have to play legendary ACC program Georgia Tech (17-15). The Yellow Jackets are led by first-year head coach Josh Pastner, fresh off an ACC Coach of the Year award.
The Hoosiers will ‘host’ Georgia Tech, as they have the higher seed, but the game will be played in Georgia.
According to KenPom, Georgia Tech is ranked No. 82, while the Hoosiers are 40 spots ahead of them at No. 42.
Indiana is favored by nine points over Georgia Tech in their first-round game.
-Illinois Fighting Illini (18-14) - No. 2 seed
Talk about a tricky situation. The Fighting Illini just fired their head coach, John Groce, and will move into the NIT led by assistant coach Jamall Walker. It would have been nice to see Groce get the chance to finish out the year, especially since Walker doesn’t look to be in contention to take over next season.
Although, it will be tough, I like Illinois chances at making a run in the NIT. They’re a senior heavy team and also proved at the end of the year they could string wins together when needed.
To open the tournament, the Fighting Illini will host No. 7 Valparaiso in the first round of the NIT. The Crusaders sport a healthy 24-8 record, including an impressive win over Atlantic-10 Champion Rhode Island.
Luckily, Illinois will be catching Valpo in a weakened state, as their best player, Alec Peters, went down with an injury in late-February. Peters averaged 23 points per game this year and was selected as the Horizon League Player of the Year.
According to KenPom, Valparaiso is ranked No. 97, while the Fighting Illini are 27 spots ahead of them at No. 70.
Illinois is favored by seven points over the Crusaders in their first-round game.
-Iowa Hawkeyes (18-14) - No. 1 seed
After losing to Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hawkeyes hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid evaporated. It was a dream scenario to begin with, as Iowa played with a freshman heavy lineup all year and was thought to be in a rebuilding year.
Having said that, this is a dangerous team who can score in bunches. They have a high-powered attack, led by Big Ten scoring king Peter Jok (19.8 ppg) and All-Freshman selections Tyler Cook (11.9 ppg) and Jordan Bohannon (10.3 ppg). In addition, Iowa has Nicholas Baer (7.4 ppg) coming off the bench, a sophomore who was honored as the Sixth Man of the Year in the Big Ten.
To kick things off, the Hawkeyes will host No. 8 South Dakota in the first round of the NIT. The Coyotes were the regular-season champion in the Summit League, finishing with a 22-11 record overall.
According to KenPom, South Dakota is ranked No. 144, while the Hawkeyes are 75 spots ahead of them at No. 69.
Iowa is favored by 10 points over the Coyotes in their first-round game.