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Colonial Sports Network

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Wickline: The NCAA Has Ruined Mid-Major Basketball

One of the most iconic moments in NIT history was Robert Morris stunning Kentucky in 2013 at Moon Township Photo credit: Don Wright/AP

The NCAA has ruined mid-major collegiate basketball.

That may seem like a harsh statement, but it is a fact. Yesterday, the NCAA announced that regular season conference champions will no longer get an automatic bid to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

To the common fan, this ruling may seem almost meaningless. Duke wins the ACC, the last thing they are considering is the NIT. Kansas wins the Big 12, I promise they do not care about the NIT.

The truth is, this means almost nothing to power six conference schools (SEC, Big Ten, Big XII, Big East, Pac 12, ACC). In fact, most fan bases and schools in those conferences only care about the NCAA Tournament. Many need to do much less than win their conference to make it. If they can’t make it, in their opinion, that’s it, a failed season. Getting “invited” to the NIT is a slap in the face.

However, for mid-major teams, this could not be more opposite. Except for the occasional run by a team like 2023 Fairleigh Dickinson or 2018 Loyola Chicago (which were both touted as “Cinderella Runs”), the NCAA Tournament typically goes off without a peep from mid-majors.

This is why the NIT is so important for these teams. Playing in that tournament is a dream for players, coaches, and fans alike. The NIT may be the only time in players’ careers they will play in front of a national audience. The NIT may be the only chance coaches can showcase their program to a national audience. The NIT may be the only time fans can watch their team play on cable TV.

Simply put, the NIT is a huge deal for mid-majors. The NIT is an annoyance for bigger schools.

Despite that, the NCAA has changed its format to allow the top two teams in NET rankings from the power six conferences who did not get selected to the NCAA tournament to receive an automatic bid to the NIT. This move puts more power in six schools and keeps more mid-major schools out.

This means many schools’ only chance at national postseason play is by winning their conference tournament and receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. As a result, conference regular seasons are essentially meaningless. A bunch of round-robin games to decide seeding, nothing more.

@mid_madness on X received a quote from an anonymous coach in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) expressing how this ruling changes their regular season.

“Regular season means nothing now. Your season starts and ends in the conference tourney. For us, whoever gets to Cleveland (location of the MAC conference tournament), you have 3 days to figure it out.“

The NCAA’s website outlines its four priorities.

The first one is “Deliver excellent and inclusive championships.” Inclusive championships. Inclusive.

Congratulations to you, NCAA.

You failed.

You ruined mid-major basketball.


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About the Contributor
Cam Wickline
Cam Wickline, Copy Editor