NIT Has None of the Luster But All the Fun

By Ryan Wooden

NIT Basketball…. it’s like the hacky sack of sports–don’t you dare try telling me hacky sack is a real sport, hipsters. I will smite thee.

There’s something decidedly anti-establishment about 32 teams fighting for 69th place, and I think I love it. (Does that qualify ME as a hipster? I assume that if you have to ask the answer is no.) Not enough to watch a lot of it, but enough to watch a little of it.

Actually, only enough to watch VERY little of it, but I always mean to watch more.

This year I’ve finally got incentive. My Tennessee Volunteers, an almighty No.1-seed, took on perennial powerhouse Savannah State tonight in Knoxville in front of a ravenous crowd of just over 6,000. The Vols won, but that didn’t seem to matter because we learned so much more.

I made a list.

  • Thompson-Boling Arena is extremely cavernous (21,000-plus capacity). If they had put orange tarps over the seats in the upper bowl, I would have assumed that I was watching a replay of a Florida Marlins game from back (last year) when they played at Pro Player Stadium. Except, there was a roof and baskets.
  • Savannah State has a player who played an entire two years with the name on the back of his jersey spelled incorrectly. I assume that’s how he wound up at Savannah State, too.
  • ESPN gives millions every year to the “V” Foundation, but perhaps their greatest tribute to Jim Valvano is the fact that they still elect to employ his brother Bob, as terrible of an announcer as he is.
  • There is a contingent of players who actually care… kinda sorta.
  • Tennessee should sell booze on campus because anybody willing to show up early to an NIT game has got to be demonstrably more entertaining under the influence.
  • Lastly, I assume that NIT officiating crews are made up of Ace Hardware employees who moonlight as referees.

In contrast, I assume the “First Round” game pitting the two worst teams in the field against each other for the chance to view Anthony Davis’ unibrow in person was the cause of a significant drop in TruTV’s ratings. And I’m certain anyone hoping to catch a quick rerun of Lizard Lick Towing before heading out for their inevitable nightly bar fight was wildly disappointed to see President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron fawning over a basketball game nobody ACTUALLY cares about.

NIT > Non-life threatening forms of cancer > Play-in ga…. I mean “First Round.”

So, why not watch the NIT?

I love college basketball, but I’d like to avoid hearing everybody I know talk about who their favorite No. 12-seed is, or how Fab Melo’s ineligibility has some how inconvenienced them on three of their nine brackets. Don’t get me wrong, I fill out a bracket– I also wager inordinate sums of money on them– but I don’t want to talk about them any more than I want to hear about somebody else’s fantasy team.

I’m not saying that I’m happy my team is in the NIT, because that part still sucks, but when they’re here it is a nice little getaway from all that other stuff. So here I am, giggling to myself as Starkville once again finds themselves Stansbury’d, and outright laughing because Trent Johnson looks like he’d rather be anywhere–even a funeral– than Eugene, Oregon.

Seriously, this NIT stuff isn’t so bad…. proverbially, of course. It’s still literally VERY bad.

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