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Updated: April 2nd, 2014 11:01am
Wetmore: Will NIT finals appearance serve as a springboard? Not likely

Wetmore: Will NIT finals appearance serve as a springboard? Not likely

Audio Clip
Associate AD Mike Ellis with strong words for Bo Ryan and the Badgers
Gophers Associate AD Mike Ellis joins Mackey and Doogie to talk about Gopher basketball. Mike talks about the disappointment of missing the NCAA tournament field, what he expects from the NIT tournament, and has gets something off his chest about how the Badger game ended in the Big Ten Tournament.
[Click to listen]
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by Derek Wetmore

Editor's note: This piece was written in mid-March after the Gophers were announced to the NIT field. We wanted to know if it mattered how the Gophers performed in this tournament. Now that the Gophers have made it to the finals, it's worth re-visiting the question: 

Does NIT success mean a good season will follow?


I didn't expect the Gophers would make the NCAA Tournament in Richard Pitino's first year. Despite an experienced roster, there isn't much talent.

In trying to gauge public opinion, I don't sense there is outright disappointment with missing the Big Dance for this year's Gophers.

I did, however, sense a fairly high degree of apathy toward the results of the National Invitation Tournament. This comes from reading Twitter and texting and calling with my friends who follow sports, so we're dealing with a very limited sample here.

Still, it led me to this question:

Does the NIT matter? More specifically, will Gophers supporters care how the team performs in 'the other tournament'?

To answer this I looked back to every season since 2000, and recorded how the NIT winner and runner-up fared in the following season.

The results are somewhat inconclusive when we're dealing with a small-ish sample like this. And the idiosyncratic differences from year to year and team to team can obscure the answer we're seeking.


NIT Champion

Following season

NIT runner-up

Following season


Wake Forest

NCAA (7 seed, 1st round)

Notre Dame

NCAA (6 seed, 2nd round)



NCAA (12 seed, 2nd round)


NCAA (2 seed, 2nd round)



NCAA (7 seed, 1st round)

South Carolina

Failed to make NIT


St. John's (later vacated)

Failed to make NIT


Failed to make NIT



Failed to make NIT


Failed to make NIT


South Carolina

NIT Champs

Saint Joseph's

NIT (2 seed, 2nd round)


South Carolina

Failed to make NIT


NIT (3 seed, 2nd round)


West Virginia

NCAA (7 seed, Sweet 16)


NCAA (5 seed, 1st round)


Ohio State

NCAA (8 seed)


Failed to make NIT


Penn State

Failed to make NIT


NCAA (3 seed, Elite 8)



NIT (1st round)

North Carolina

NCAA (2 seed, Elite 8)


Wichita State

NCAA (5 seed)


NCAA (9 seed)



NIT (2nd round)


NCAA (11 seed, 2nd round)



NCAA (6 seed)


NCAA (play-in game)

*Sources:, and Wikipedia


Let's sort these 28 results into categories:

1)      Failed to make the NIT the following season: 8

2)      Made the NIT the following season: 5

3)      Made the NCAA Tournament, but lost early: 10

4)      Made an NCAA Tournament run (Sweet 16 or better): 3

5)      Too soon to call: 2 (Baylor and Iowa this year)


Here's a look at that in bar graph form, because bar graphs are fun. Here, we record the following season's result for the team that won the NIT (blue) and the team that came in second (red). Failure is to miss the NIT next season; disappointment is to return; fair is to make the NCAA Tournament; and Impressive is to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. I've eliminated Baylor and Iowa because we don't yet know how they'll perform this postseason.

NIT follow-up performances


Drawing from the past 14 years as precedent, if the Gophers make it to the NIT finals the most likely outcome is an NCAA Tournament appearance next season. The next most likely is missing the NIT altogether. There's obviously more nuance to consider -- second-year coach, different players, changes in Big 10 landscape -- but this is a good starting point for the conversation.

So take this and run with it: do you care how the Gophers fare in the NIT?

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for His previous stops include and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore