The National Invitational Tournament, otherwise known as the NIT Tournament, is a postseason college basketball event that began in the 1930s. The current version of the NIT involves 32 teams, with the final four advancing to play at Madison Square Garden in New York. The opening round of the NIT in 2013 will begin on Tuesday, March 19th. The championship game will take place on Thursday, April 4th.

History of the NIT Tournament

The postseason NIT began in 1938, which is a year before the NCAA men’s basketball tournament started. The inaugural NIT had only six teams and Temple beat Colorado in the first championship game. The NIT bracket has expanded from six to eight, to 12, to 14, to 16, to 24, to 32 and to 40 teams during its existence. Forty teams were involved from 2002-2006 before it went back to 32 teams, which is slightly less than half of the NCAA Tournament field.

The Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association was in control of the NIT until it was purchased by the NCAA in 2005. The NCAA bought the rights to the tournament for 10 years in an antitrust lawsuit settlement. The NCAA paid MIBA over $56-million for the rights to the NIT.

No school has run through the NIT bracket for the championship more than St. John’s. The New York-based school has won a record six championships and appeared in the NIT Tournament a record 16 times. The Bradley Braves have appeared in the NIT eight times and won four titles. Dayton and Michigan have won three NIT championships apiece.

Stigma of the NIT Tournament

For several reasons, the NIT is often viewed as far less important than the NCAA Tournament. One reason is because teams are sometimes reluctant to accept invitations to the NIT after being passed over for the NCAA Tournament. The NIT has also garnered such nicknames as the “Not Important Tournament” and “No Important Team.”

Preseason NIT Tournament

In addition to the postseason NIT, the preseason NIT has been in existence since 1985. The event was renamed the “NIT Season Tip-Off” after the NCAA bought the rights in 2005. Duke won the inaugural tournament in ’85. Others who have rolled through the NIT bracket include Syracuse, Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Butler, and most recently, Michigan.

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