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Does NIT Success Translate to Future Success? (Spoiler: Not really...)

Hopefully this is a learning experience?

ACC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It’s late March and I’m refreshing the tab I have open with the latest NIT bracket. This was not how I had planned to be tracking the Wolfpack at this point in the year, but here we are. The case has been made several times over that NC State shouldn’t have to be in this tournament, let alone a 2 seed (slap in the face, really), but credit this group for making the most of a sour situation. They could have packed it in and said deuces, we’ll see y’all in the fall.

Instead, they have rallied to win two games and reach the quarterfinals. Both opponents faced so far are admittedly soft compared to the ACC, but 7-seed Hofstra and 6-seed Harvard finished first and tied for first in the regular season in the CAA and Ivy League conferences, respectively. Apparently there’s a rule granting teams who win their conference regular season but not the conference tournament an automatic bid to the NIT. Who knew? This bid would never be used by a high major team since they’d get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, but it’s interesting.

The seeding in the NIT was somewhat favorable to NC State, and their quadrant (trigger word) of the bracket broke in their favor. Lipscomb beating UNC-G saved the Pack the embarrassment of playing a freaking road game in Greensboro. Plus Harvard beat Georgetown so we were spared 1,431 shots of Omer Yurtseven sitting on the bench.

So, even though it is far less than ideal that we have to be here at all, the path to the semifinals in the NIT is open for the Wolfpack. Playing in MSG would be a cool experience for the team. Plus there is the possibility State may play against two of their what-if coaches, Archie Miller and Shaka Smart. If the Pack manage to beat 5-seed Lipscomb (who also finished tied for first in the Atlantic Sun Conference), they would reach the NIT semifinals. How might that translate to potential success next year?

Below are the four semifinalists from the last five NIT’s, their record in that year and how they spun that NIT result into the following season. OBVIOUSLY THIS ASSUMES A WIN AGAINST LIPSCOMB. We all know who assumptions make asses out of, but Lipscomb is one of those schools I would quickly scroll past in NCAA Football when trying to get to the N’s for NC State. Based on that, the Pack should win. Not that logic has applied to this team this season or anything.

If you’re hoping the Wolfpack are going to springboard this current run to new heights next year, you may want to steel yourself now, as history is not on their side:

What did we learn?

  • Only 1 of the last 5 NIT champions made the NCAA tournament the next year.
  • Of the last 20 semifinalists, only 5 have come back the next year and made the NCAA tournament.
  • Of those 5, only 2 made it out of the first round, and only 1 made the Sweet 16.
  • Apparently there are fringe tournaments like the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), and Vegas 16. The latter actually only invited 8 teams, but like, on purpose? Then they like, didn’t do the tournament again? So weird.
  • The CBI selects 16 teams that are not selected for the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. Pretty sure I’d rather the team just ran pickup games against the student body in Carmichael at that point.
  • I’ve made myself even more depressed by trudging through these records of also-ran former bubble teams.
  • There’s a case to be made that NIT success results in a one+ year delay in success to come later, but the results are skewed to the P5 participants, and spotty still. And I’d hate to already be looking past next season.
  • This was all assuming a win against Lipscomb. If they lose, it would be a tad embarrassing, but also might not be the worst thing in the world. Teams that exited earlier in the NIT seem to be slightly more likely to make the NCAA the following year.

The primary narrative for the last week has been that this would be a good learning experience for this team. With the exception of Torin Dorn and Eric Lockett, this whole team is coming back next year (barring any WTF transfers/professional declarations). Playing more games is (read: should) be better than playing no games, right? The team gets a taste for what it takes to progress through a single elimination structure, and further develop chemistry they can take into the next year.

That’s the hope, at least. Based on the roster, and the fact that the ACC isn’t getting any easier, it might be a stretch to think this same group will drastically improve their standing next year. Cue Dennis Green. But at the very least moving up from a bubble team to a firm at large NCAA bid could and should be the expectation.

The name of the game in KKIAW Year 3 will be player development. The returning guys need to take a step up, if not a leap. The Wolfpack have a good duo of recruits coming in, with Manny Bates coming off injury. The roster may not be that different, but should sport upgrades at some key spots. Time will tell if these additions plus this NIT experience will result in future success, but Wolfpack fans are great at keeping the hope alive.