The overachievement of the Oregon Mens' Basketball team has been a pleasant surprise this season. Oregon currently stands at 14-12 on the season, 7-7 in the Pac-10. This has led to much speculation that if Oregon can finish with a winning record, the Ducks would all but seal a bit to the NIT. Normally, an NIT bid is a culmination to a disappointing year. However, giving the expectations of the Ducks this season, the NIT would be more than anything we could have hoped for before the season began. Lets take a look at the last couple of seasons to analyze Oregon's NIT chances.
First off, here are a few things to take into account. Due to expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 68 teams, three teams that would have been cut from the NIT last season are now in the field. Also, regular season conference winners who lose in their conference tournament get an automatic berth to the NIT, so root for regular season champions to win the conference tournament. Finally, money plays no factor. The NIT field is now decided by a selection committee that only takes into account on court performance.
Lets start by taking last season's NIT field:
Last year's NIT field 24 at-large spots in the 62 team field. All major conference teams with 20 wins not in the NCAA Tournament made the NIT field. Of more interest to Oregon are the teams hovering close to .500 that made the field. North Carolina made it a 16-16. Texas Tech, St. Johns, and UCONN were invited at 17-15. Cincinnati at three games over. Three eligible Pac-10 schools did not make the NIT (Arizona and Washington State were 16-15, Oregon was 15-15). Two seasons ago, only two teams with records of two games over .500 went to the NIT, Georgetown at 16-14, and Washington State at 17-15. These numbers would seem not to favor the Ducks.
However, we all know that all records are not made equal. Lets take a look at the power ratings from those teams. I'll use the Pomeroy ratings, as the RPI costs money). This isn't perfect, because the only Pomeroy rankings availiable AFTER the NIT games were played, but it still gives us a decent picture of things.
When looking at the rankings, its easy to see why St. John's and Texas Tech were taken, with rankings of 67 and 79, respectively. Northwestern and USF got in at 82 and 83. Nevada was the lowest to get in at 91. Alabama, 17-15 and ranked #61, did not get an invite.
Three more spots will be availiable this season. Oregon's current Pomeroy ranking is 77, which would put us square in the range where a selection is likely. Furthermore, Cal sits at 75, and we could knock them behind us with a win on Thursday.
Two of the last three NIT fields have had eight automatic qualifiers, so lets assume that will happen again, leaving 24 at large slots. Lets also pretend that the current bracketology is the NCAA field.
Figure the first eight teams out listed by Joe Lunardi get bids. That's Colorado State, Richmond, UAB, Washington State, Gonzaga, Penn State, Clemson and Oklahoma State. 16 spots left. Going straight down the Pomeroy ratings, the following teams would get bids:
Michigan State (42)
New Mexico (45)
Southern Miss (66)
Iowa State (78)
NC State (79)
By my completely unscientific method, Oregon would be one of the last teams in the NIT if the season ended today. 3-1 probably does it. 2-2, and we have a chance but need a win in the Pac-10 Tourney to feel really good. The other thing to keep in mind is that our only really good win is Washington at home, so, needless to say, somehow beating Arizona would probably be a big help. Chances of hosting a game, however, appear to be small. That said, its unknown if the committee will take into account improvement over the season, which would obviously help Oregon's case.
Of course, this is all fluid and a lot can change before Selection Sunday. Some teams will rise. Some teams will fall hard. Oregon may not have a winning record at all. We have to wait and see what happens, but it seems that Oregon's NIT chances are very legitimate at this point.
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