- Judge strikes down Arkansas abortion law — nation’s toughest — as unconstitutional
- Court: Tenn. must recognize 3 same-sex marriages
- Russia claims to have downed U.S. drone over Crimea region
- John Daly shoots 90 at PGA Tour event: ‘I’m falling apart’
- Police: Man arrested in West Virginia may be linked to Alexandria killings
- Smile: Equipping cops with body-mounted cameras gains steam in Calif., N.Y.
- Obama to sign bill cutting taxpayer money for party conventions
- Half of Americans worried about second Cold War: poll
- Kermit Gosnell clinic aide who heard aborted baby scream gets 5 to 10 years in prison
- Iraq mulls law to let men marry 8-year-old girls
HARRIS: NIT has value for Terps, Cavaliers — for now
Before the real games begin (and those newfangled play-in games are only a preliminary), let’s talk about the NIT.
For starters, the full name of the tournament is the National Invitation Tournament and not the National Invitational Tournament as a couple of prominent websites have it listed. The tournament has some tradition and history. It has been around since 1938 and it used to mean something. Let’s accord it the proper respect by using its proper name.
That is, unless you want to call it the Nobody’s Interested Tournament because, frankly, that fits, too.
As the NCAA tournament has grown into a behemoth, the NIT has been lost in the shuffle. Ever compete in an NIT pool? Quick, name the past three NIT champions? Heck, name the last one. The last three are Stanford, Wichita State and Dayton. Look it up. We did. We had no choice.
The NIT does have some value. It’s never bad to play more games, especially if you have a young team. It’s a worthwhile experience if you can get to New York for the NIT version of the final four. But let’s face it, no team starts its season with designs on an NIT bid. No coach wants a line that says, “Made the NIT a lot,” on his resume.
Nothing says not quite good enough quite like the NIT.
All of which brings us to the universities of Maryland and Virginia. The Terps and the Cavaliers started their NIT bids on Tuesday night with home games. Win three games and they can head to New York and play in a half-full (or half-empty) Madison Square Garden.
For both programs, it’s not a terrible situation. Not this year at least. It does bring up the question as to when too much NIT is too much? At what point does the heat get turned up?
This is Bennett’s fourth year at Virginia. He was coaching at Washington State before moving to Charlottesville and he made the NCAA tournament twice in three seasons there. He’s made it once with the Cavaliers, last season. A program that used to be a lot more dominant (seven Sweet 16s and two Final Fours between 1981-95) hasn’t been quite that good since. The Cavaliers have only made three NCAA appearances since 1997 and only won one game in their past four NCAA visits.
Virginia was picked to finish seventh preseason polls by the ACC’s coaches and media. It finished fourth, with Mike Scott gone and Malcolm Brogdon injured. Bennett gets points for having Virginia in NCAA position despite that, after a late-season victory over Duke. But Virginia didn’t get there after a poor finish to the season, so most of the points are lost and the NIT is the “reward.”
Turgeon has a bit more time as he’s only just finishing his second year at Maryland. He came to the Terps after four years at Texas A&M, where he made the NCAA field all four years. That means he took over a good program and kept it good. At Maryland, he found a solid program that needed a bit of propping up. The Terps won the national title in 2002. They’ve made five NCAA tournaments since then and won at least one game all five times (but only as many as two once).
After a 17-15 debut, Maryland improved to 22-12 going into Tuesday’s game. A five-game improvement next year and Turgeon isn’t doing the NIT thing, that’s for sure. That may not be realistic but an NCAA bid is not and should not be an unrealistic goal.
Like Bennett, Turgeon is well paid. He’s making just shy of $2 million this year. He’s not getting that kind of coin to become an NIT regular. He’s on an upward swing, which is good. He needs to keep moving in that direction.
It’s not a totally fair world Bennett and Turgeon live in but it is the world of big-money, high-profile NCAA basketball schools. Don’t talk to us about your NIT record. Make the real tournament, more often than not.
Jeff Jones, by contrast, isn’t in that world anymore. He’s the last coach to take U.Va. very far in the NCAAs, going to the Elite Eight in 1995. He’s been at American for 12 years now and has made the NCAA field just twice. He could probably stay there for life if he chooses. His program is clean, his teams are competitive and now and then they get in the (real) tournament. He also makes about 20 percent of what Bennett and Turgeon make.
Big money brings big expectations. The NIT happens every once in a while. It should never become a habit.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Washington Times sports editor Mike Harris has more than 30 years experience in the business as a reporter, columnist and manager. He’s covered a wide variety of events including two Olympics, horse racing, auto racing, professional and college sports. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow the section on Twitter @WashTimesSports.
- HARRIS: Time for season of Cinderellas, shockers — and Shockers? — to begin
- HARRIS: Shopping season opens for Redskins, who need plenty of help
- HARRIS: Blown game leaves Caps missing the point
- HARRIS: Dust off the snow as Nats spring training heats up
- HARRIS: Caps have work to do to keep playoff streak alive
Latest Blog Entries
- Gio Gonzalez living a dream by throwing bullpen sessions to ex-Yankee Jorge Posada
- Meet Connor Carrick, the youngster who played his way onto the Caps' final roster
- Go Aggies: Nationals notes and lineups for Sept. 14
- RG3: There is no conflict with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan
- Sunday Nats-Dodgers lineups and some thoughts from reliever Craig Stammen
By David A. Clarke Jr.
Planning for the last attack doesn't make Americans safer
- EXCLUSIVE: FBI blocked in corruption probe involving Sens. Reid, Lee
- College group's diversity event canceled after excluding white people
- Russia claims to have downed U.S. drone over Crimea region
- Sam Adams beer brewer nixes St. Patrick's parade that won't allow gays
- F-35 secrets now showing up in Chinas stealth fighter
- USS Kidd sent to Indian Ocean after 'indication' of Malaysian jet crash
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- U.S.: Malaysia plane's on-board communications purposely shut down
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- Russia sends bombers on 24-hour Arctic patrol
Chaos as Manhattan building explodes
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014