NASHVILLE — And the SEC is currently well-represented.
Five teams from the conference are projected to make the NIT, per Bracketmatrix.com. That’s as many SEC teams as are currently projected to make the NCAA tournament.
If the Bracketmatrix projection is right, and if it’s indicative of the NCAA’s thinking, it reinforces that entering Thursday’s play, only Florida has a reasonable chance of playing its way into the big tournament, at least without a very long run in the SEC tournament.
The Gators could be a No. 1 seed in the 32-team NIT. After surviving Arkansas on Thursday, Florida plays top-seeded Texas A&M in Friday’s quarterfinals, a game that many analysts feel the Gators must win, or else they’ll be in the NIT.
Every other SEC team is projected to go on the road in the NIT: Georgia as a No. 5 seed at Ohio State, and LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss as No. 6 seeds.
The NIT may carry a stigma — the Not Invited Tournament — but the reality is it’s become a harder event to get into over the years.
That’s mainly because the NCAA, which took over the event about a decade ago, now mandates that regular season champions who don’t win their conference tournaments get automatic bids. That takes away a number of potential bids from major conference teams.
So when UAB fell in the Conference USA tournament on Thursday afternoon, there went one more NIT at-large bid. As of Thursday afternoon there were 10 such regular-season champions guaranteed at least an NIT bid, with Monmouth among those standing a decent chance of getting an NCAA bid.