Although I have been mocking it in all of my NCAA tournament posts, at this very moment that you are reading this entry, I am in New York City watching the University of Rhode Island Rams play in the NIT – the Not Invited Tournament, also known by its official and generic name, the National Invitational Tournament. (To be precise though, URI plays at 9; the early game is at 7, and features Dayton vs. Missouri or Mississippi, I forget which one exactly.)
Obviously, I'm not a huge fan of the NIT. However, there are several reasons why I took the plunge and decided to check it out this year.
1) North Carolina. As in, URI's opponent is the University of North Carolina. The Tarheels uncharacteristically didn't make the NCAA tournament, since they lost pretty much their entire team following their national championship in the 2008-09 season. Given the reluctance of power / BCS conference teams to play the Atlantic 10 under any circumstance, this could be the last time in a while that the Rams meet up with the Tarheels.
2)Madison Square Garden. I've never been, and unlike an overpriced regular season New York Knicks game, prices for the NIT are very reasonable. I paid $10 for my ticket, which admits me to both games. In the past, I tried to go to Yankee Stadium the year before it was demolished, only to have the game be rained out; I took this as a sign that I wasn't meant to go. Hopefully, nothing will impede me from checking out MSG.
3)Timing and location. New York City is only about two-and-a-half to three hours from where I live in southern Rhode Island. I do have to work early Wednesday morning, but the 9 p.m. tip for the Rhody game leaves me plenty of time to watch the game and drive home after. I'm going with three other people, with the plan of leaving Rhode Island around 2 p.m. This will hopefully give us some time to check out the local... color... around MSG. If the Rams win tonight, I'm also free to go to their Thursday night game, which would be a fun if not-as-entertaining match-up.
4)The Rams. Yeah, seeing them collapse down the stretch for the third year in a row wasn't so entertaining. If they managed to turn a single of their bad losses – UMass, St. Bonaventure's, VCU – into a win, or managed to beat Temple once in three tries, or eek out the win against Richmond, then they are probably in the NCAA tournament. However, advancing to the Final Four of the NITs is a decent consolation to the season, and better than being at home for the players, I imagine. Hopefully, the performance of the A-10 bubble teams in the postseason – Dayton also made the NIT Final Four – will force the NCAA tournament selection committee's hand in future bubble situations, especially given the Big East bubble teams' performance in comparison.
Anyway, if you are by a television Tuesday night, and you're not watching LOST (my only regret about making this trip), then flip over to see the Rams on ESPN or ESPN2. I'm the balcony 300-level, and probably won't be acting like too much of an ass, so I doubt I will personally be on television. But, you never know – Maybe I'll get chosen to shoot a half-court shot, sink it, and make a million bucks. That would be pretty sweet.
Note: I'll update everyone on the progress of my NCAA tournament bracket later this week. The real fun is always in the opening weekend, although I'm sure my buddy Jared (not the Subway guy), who is a Butler alum, is pretty psyched about Saturday's results.