The 2017 NIT bracket was released Sunday night. Syracuse, Iowa, Illinois State and Cal earned the No. 1 seeds. After one round, Cal is out, all four 6-seeds advanced, and the bracket has been turned upside-down. The tournament ends Thursday, March 30.
2017 NIT bracket
NIT bracket by region
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2017 NIT breakdown, Big Ten
Land of 10’s Ben Axelrod and Bobby La Gesse contributed to this report.
The 2016-17 Ohio State men’s basketball season is officially over. And the sad thing is, it’s probably for the better.
After tallying 17-15 on the year with a 7-11 record in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes were left out of not just the NCAA Tournament, but the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) as well. With that, what Ohio State head coach Thad Matta admitted earlier this week had been one of the most perplexing seasons of his 17-year head coaching career is officially over.
On ESPN’s NIT selection show, tournament chair Reggie Minton confirmed the Buckeyes “came just a little bit short” of making the field.
Despite wins over NCAA Tournament teams in Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State, Ohio State’s resume was admittedly lackluster.
After winning their first eight games, the Buckeyes have yet to string together more than two wins in a row since November and lost their first four games in conference play. Ohio State’s final contest was a 66-57 defeat at the hands of last-place Rutgers in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament.
“Tonight we weren’t ready to fight at the level we needed to fight, for whatever reason,” Matta said following the Buckeyes’ loss to the Scarlet Knights. “March Madness, all that stuff. I told the guys, This is where players play. This is where players make money.”
Ohio State won’t have an opportunity to do just that, as the Buckeyes have missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. Missing the NIT, however, marks a new low for the Matta era.
In theory, the NIT could have provided Ohio State with an opportunity to create some much needed consistency, especially with a roster that possesses just one senior. String together some wins — as the Buckeyes did when they won the NIT in 2008 under Matta — and perhaps they could have carried that momentum into next season.
The only problem, however, is that as a program, Ohio State is past the point where what it could have done this spring would have affected the crossroads the Buckeyes appear to be approaching. Ohio State likely needs to make next year’s NCAA Tournament to avoid major changes — and even that might not be enough. As I wrote earlier this week, the 2017-18 season will be a make-or-break campaign in the Matta era in Columbus.
Ultimately, anything Ohio State could have done in the coming weeks wouldn’t have outweighed its performances in the previous months. The Buckeyes need more than just a hot streak; They need a complete season.
With 4-star center Kaleb Wesson set to arrive this summer, Ohio State’s team could look very different next season, even if the faces are largely the same. Current Buckeyes center Trevor Thompson has also been linked to the NBA, which would have only lessened any lasting effect a a potential NIT run could have had.
Ultimately, however, that’s not a problem Ohio State is going to have worry about.
The Buckeyes’ season is over. But the madness for Ohio State basketball might just be beginning.
Why Iowa fans should be excited for the 2017 NIT
1. Any postseason is better than no postseason
No, this isn’t the big dance, and a NIT berth won’t come with the same long-term benefits for this young team.
But it is a postseason tournament. A team that relies as heavily on freshmen as the Hawkeyes do needs those youngsters to dip their toes into the postseason pool — even if it’s not the NCAA Tournament.
Postseason contests are different than regular-season games. Iowa saw as much in the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes and the players expected to be the backbone of the team for the next several years need to experience it.
No, the NIT won’t completely prepare Iowa for the atmosphere and emotions of the NCAA Tournament, but it is better than nothing for a team that will be facing increased expectations next season.
2. How does Iowa respond to the Indiana loss
The Big Ten Tournament opener was Iowa’s biggest game of the year, on the biggest stage for the freshmen. The Hawkeyes struggled, losing 95-73 to Indiana. Yes, the Hoosiers were great and were likely beating any team in the league on Thursday. That doesn’t excuse how Iowa played. It was far from the team’s best game of the season.
This is the kind of loss that can linger. Can the Hawkeyes overcome it? Will they be able to regroup for another tournament where one loss sends you home?
The NIT is as much about if a team wants to play in the tournament as anything. So how Iowa transitions out of its Big Ten tourney performance matters if the team is to make a deep NIT run.
3. There is a legitimate shot for a deep tournament run
The Hawkeyes are a No. 1 seed. They won’t need to leave Carver Hawkeye-Arena to make a trip to Madison Square Garden and the Final Four.
The path to New York is as easy as it can get. Why not try to make the most of it?
Home-court advantage in the NIT can, at times, be an oxymoron. Games in front of a few thousand fans can be commonplace across the country, but not having to leave town and disrupt a team’s routine is a plus.
Iowa played its best basketball at the end of the regular season, winning four straight before the Indiana loss. When the defense came around, the Hawkeyes went from a team without postseason hopes to one playing at least one more game, with a good chance at a few more.
4. One last time with Peter Jok
At times, it seems like the All-Big Ten first-team guard is a little underappreciated by the Iowa fan base. He is one of the top players in the tournament and is capable of scoring 30-plus points in any game. Jok could put together another offensive show well worth anyone’s time. He is reason enough to pay attention to Iowa’s NIT run.
5. Iowa plays an entertaining style of basketball
Don’t kid yourself — style of play is a factor when it comes to the NIT. Unless you’re a true basketball junkie, entertainment quality is a key factor that determines whether you’ll turn on the game. People won’t be watching if two teams are trying to do their best Virginia impression, hoping to win a 45-42 game.
The Hawkeyes, with their up-tempo offense and desire to turn the game into a track meet, meet the entertainment factor.