Will Georgia Tech make the NIT field?

Will Georgia Tech forward Quinton Stephens get a chance to continue his career? (Associated Press)

It looks like it could be a close call for Georgia Tech to make it into the NIT.

Because of the NIT’s policy of giving automatic bids to conference regular-season champions that don’t win their conference tournaments and don’t get at-large bids into the NCAA tournament, there will be be either 22 spots for at-large teams in the 32-team NIT as of early Sunday afternoon. The average over the past five years is 21.

Surely Tech must be among the 22 best teams to not make the NCAA tournament, you might be saying. You could make a strong case for it based on the Yellow Jackets’ finishing 8-10 in the ACC – the best conference in the history of basketball, as coach Josh Pastner is wont to say – and their attention-getting wins over four RPI top-25 teams – North Carolina, Florida State, VCU and Notre Dame.

However, Tech is also a team that is 16-15 (not counting the win over Division II Tusculum), had a weak non-conference strength of schedule, lost five of its past seven games and has a high RPI (105).

There are 14 power-conference teams that have equal (one) or better (12) records and higher rankings in RPI and KenPom than Tech. (Edit: Syracuse is not included on the chart below, but can be added having not made into the NCAA field.) The Jackets would seem better than some on the list. Texas A&M, for instance, was 8-10 in the SEC and 1-13 against teams in the RPI top 50. (Tech was 4-7.) Utah’s non-conference strength of schedule was also weak, and the Utes were 1-6 against RPI top-50 teams.

In the past five years, between eight and 11 power-conference teams have been in the NIT. All three metrics – record, RPI, KenPom – are hardly all-deciding measurements, but it gives you an idea of what Tech is up against. It looks like it could be a close call.

The final number of automatic bids will be determined by whether or not Illinois State, which was the Missouri Valley Conference top seed but lost in the conference tournament, gets an NCAA at-large bid. If the Redbirds do, it opens up another spot in the NIT field.

The field will be announced at 8:30 p.m. on ESPNU.


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