Regular-season conference champions who don't make the NCAA Tournament will no longer receive an automatic bid to the NIT under new selection criteria announced Friday by the NCAA. Instead, the top two teams in the NET rankings from each of the major six conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC) that did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament will earn the first 12 NIT automatic bids and have the right to host first-round games.
The move puts the squeeze on low- and mid-major programs who win their conference's regular season title but fail to win their conference tournament and thus miss out on an automatic NCAA Tournament bid. Under the previous format, such schools were still guaranteed a national showcase opportunity through the NIT.
"I was surprised and disappointed in the action announced today by the NIT Board of Managers, approximately one week prior to the start of the 2023-24 season," said MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher. "To make such a substantive change to the NIT structure without providing a satisfactory explanation or building the foundation for such a change is troubling and leaves student-athletes, coaches, and fans in a state of uncertainty. Today's announcement is leading me to focus even more on the discussion around the possible expansion of the NCAA Tournament and I will marshal our membership's attention to that issue."
In its announcement of changes to the NIT for 2024, the NCAA said that it will "select the 20 best teams available to complete the tournament's 32-team field" after the 12 automatic bids are handed out to power conference schools. The other four hosting schools will be the "best" of the 20 at-large teams.
"The postseason college basketball landscape is becoming more competitive for teams that don't qualify for March Madness," said Dan Gavitt, NIT board chair and NCAA senior vice president of basketball. "The change to the selection process for the 2024 NIT is a necessary effort to evolve this historic tournament in a dynamic event marketplace."
Using the 2024 criteria, here are the teams that would have earned the 12 automatic bids for last season's NIT:
- ACC: Clemson, Virginia Tech (North Carolina declined an invitation)
- Big 12: Oklahoma State, Texas Tech
- Big East: Villanova, Seton Hall
- Big Ten: Rutgers, Ohio State
- Pac-12: Oregon, Colorado
- SEC: Florida, Vanderbilt
Of that group, Texas Tech was 16-16 (5-13 Big 12) and Ohio State was 16-19 (5-15 Big Ten).
This is only the latest change to the NIT, which has historically played its semifinals and final at Madison Square Garden in New York. Those games will be played at Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Butler campus in Indianapolis on April 2 and 4 this season after last year's semifinals and finals were held in Las Vegas.