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2019 NIT Preview: A March Tradition

For the sixth time this decade, Alabama is headed to the consolation tournament

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Kentucky vs Alabama Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In what has become a near annual tradition, the Alabama Crimson Tide will once again participate in the NIT for the chance to play in a few more meaningless games. This will be the third time in four years under Avery Johnson, but the first time the Tide will host their opening match-up in Coleman Coliseum. In fact, the top-seeded Tide will host each game they play until the semifinals, which will be played in Madison Square Garden, provided that they make it that far.

Alabama’s opening opponent will be the 8th-seeded Norfolk State Spartans (21-13, 14-2 MEAC), who received an automatic bid due to their regular season MEAC championship. The rest of the bracket is as follows:

A cursory glance at the Tide’s region reveals that we could be in for a very interesting second round match-up in Tuscaloosa, as Alabama would host the winner of Dayton and Colorado. Dayton, of course, is the current home of Anthony Grant, the man responsible for creating Alabama’s identity as a mediocre program prior to Avery arriving. The sheer amount of vitriol alone would make that appointment television for all of us masochist Tide Hoops fans.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure we will get to see that match-up, as I expect the Buffaloes to defeat the Flyers in Boulder. Honestly, I’d expect Colorado to beat the Tide as well, as I just can’t see how Avery will be able to motivate this team to do much of anything in the NIT, when he couldn’t even motivate them to finish out the regular season with any sort of energy or focus.

If Alabama does somehow turn things around in the postseason, they will more than likely host Xavier in the quarterfinals with a trip to Madison Square Garden on the line. Texas is actually the 2-seed in the Tide’s region, but they, much like Alabama, won’t care at all about this tournament and will likely get bounced by a pretty solid 7-seed in South Dakota State in Shaka Smart’s final game in Austin.

My projection for the poor man’s final four in New York is Georgetown, Xavier, Furman, and Memphis. I think these four teams have the best combination of talent and give-a-damn for this tournament, and I’m projecting a Patrick Ewing-Penny Hardaway match-up in the Garden for the NIT Championship. That would be by far the best possible championship for the NIT.

A couple of things to make note of for the NIT, as they play by a different set of rules than the rest of college basketball does:

• The 3-point line will be extended by approximately 1 foot, 8 inches to the same distance used by FIBA for international competition (22 feet, 1.75 inches).

• The free throw lane will be widened from 12 feet to 16 feet, consistent with the width used by the NBA.

• The shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of the full 30 seconds.

• Team fouls will reset at the 10-minute mark of each half for the purpose of determining free throws and one-and-one free throws will be eliminated. Teams will shoot two bonus free throws after the fifth team foul of each 10-minute segment. Additionally, teams will be awarded two bonus free throws after the second team foul committed under two minutes remaining in each half if that foul occurs before the fifth team foul of the segment. In each overtime period, team fouls will reset, and teams will shoot two free throws beginning with the fourth team foul or the second team foul committed under two minutes remaining if that comes before the fourth team foul of the overtime period.

As the NIT doesn’t really matter for any reason, the NCAA uses it as a guinea pig for rule experimentation. Both the 30 second shot clock and the four-foot restricted area were experimented with in previous NITs before being fully adopted by the league. The rule change with the largest impact will certainly be how they are handling fouls, which should benefit sorry free throw shooting teams like the Tide.

Overall, it sucks that Alabama is once again playing on ESPN while programs that have committed to the sport of basketball participate in the Big Dance. There’s really nothing to be excited about as a lifeless team full of upperclassmen go through the motions under a (hopefully lame duck) coach that couldn’t get them into one of the weaker fields in recent NCAA Tournament history. But we are here now, so buckle up, I guess.