Well, of course they did. But if this were not a competition and college basketball existed only in record books and stat sheets would it have behooved the Cowboys to be crowned in New York two weeks from now? Let’s take a look at the last 10 NIT winners and their fate the following year.
The one thing I paid attention to was % of minutes played by seniors in the year the NIT was won. If seniors played a high % of minutes then you can kind of discredit any correlation between NIT success and what happens the following year.
2001: Tulsa | Following year: Lost in NCAA to Kentucky (2nd round) | Senior playing time: 14%
2002: Memphis | Following year: Lost in NCAA to ASU (1st round) | Senior playing time: 15%
2003: St. John’s | Following year: No postseason play (infractions) | Senior playing time: 14%
2004: Michigan | Following year: No postseason play | Senior playing time: 17%
2005: South Carolina | Following year: Won NIT (again) | Senior playing time: 21%
2006: South Carolina | Following year: No postseason play | Senior playing time: 17%
2007: WVU | Following year: Lost in NCAA to Xavier (Sweet 16) | Senior playing time: 27%
2008: Ohio St. | Following year: Lost in NCAA to Siena (1st round) | Senior playing time: 40%
2009: Penn St. | Following year: No postseason play | Senior playing time: 43%
2010: Dayton | Following year: Lost in NIT (1st round) | Senior playing time: 22%
- Of the 10 champs, four made the NCAA tournament the next year but only one went to the Sweet 16.
- Four missed postseason play altogether.
- Two returned to the NIT and one won it again. Can you imagine? Back-to-back NIT champs banners hanging from the rafters of Gallagher-Iba Arena!
- I think we can throw the 2009 Penn St. following year out since they lost nearly half their minutes with seniors leaving.
- The 2004 St. John’s team was on probation for like 293 rules infractions so I’m not sure if that’s a legitimate piece of data either. Other than that everything else seems to be in play.
- The 2002 Memphis team should have gone to the Sweet 16 (if not further) had DaJuan Wagner not jumped to the league (in case you were wondering what he’s up to these days). 2003 was Rodney Carney’s freshman year by the way.
- There seems to be little (if any) correlation between underclassmen playing a high % of minutes and making the NCAA tournament the following year.
Obviously this data is nowhere near complete but it’s a decent enough sample size to discuss.
It’s interesting to me that a lot of these teams absolutely fell off the table the year following their NIT title. Penn St. and St. John’s had obvious reasons but both lost 20+ games the following year which seems a little excessive.
The obvious take away is that teams who have success in the NIT go one of two extreme ways the following year: to the NCAA tournament or to the cellar of their conference. That’s kind of a strange dichotomy when you think about it. Obviously there are hundreds of other factors that come into play when talking about the transition from one season to the next but you’d like to think a postseason title of any kind is something that could be stepping stone (or at least a stepping pebble) for the future.
I didn’t really know what I would find when I started digging into this data and now that the Cowboys have lost I’m glad I didn’t see that every NIT champ for the last 10 years has gone on to the Elite 8 the following year. I think Ford has this team on course for a run of success no matter what happened last night.