The SEC is well-represented in the 2016 National Invitation Tournament. South Carolina, Florida, UGA and Alabama each received a bid to the NIT on Sunday.
The Gamecocks (24-8) were one of the teams snubbed by the NCAA tournament committee, but they were rewarded for a good season with a No. 1 seed in the NIT. The Gamecocks will host the regular season champions of the Big South conference, High Point, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
Florida (19-14) also saw its bubble pop due to a late-season slump, but it received a decent consolation prize. The Gators received a No. 2 seed in the NIT, but there’s a twist: The Gators will have to travel to No. 7 seeded North Florida of the Atlantic Sun conference because of construction taking place in the O’Connell Center. Florida tips off Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
UGA (19-13) earned a No. 3 seed in the NIT. The Bulldogs will host No. 6 seed Belmont in the first round in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.
Alabama (18-14) might be the biggest surprise in the SEC this season. The Crimson Tide were picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC during the preseason, but defied all expectations with a very good year. Alabama was listed as a No. 5 seed and will travel to No. 4 seed Creighton for a Tuesday night tilt on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET.
Coach Avery Johnson has led the charge during his first season in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He said on the NIT Selection Show that he was overjoyed to be playing in the postseason.
“Well we’re definitely excited,” Johnson told ESPNU. “We didn’t have any expectations of making the postseason with this team that I inherited. We had a lot of young players. We didn’t have any double figure scorers coming back from last year’s team.”
Johnson believes that the overachievement in 2016 could lead to even greater accomplishments next season.
“So we’re thrilled to be in the NIT,” Johnson said. “We think this can help catapult us potentially for an NCAA tournament bid next year.”
One SEC team that won’t be participating in the NIT is LSU, who declined an invitation ending its season. The Tigers drastically underachieved during what was supposed to be a prolific season — They were ranked No. 21 in the AP Preseason rankings. The Ben Simmons era in Baton Rouge, La., most likely ended with a pathetic 71-38 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday, where he scored 10 points.