The NIT Season Tip-Off will have a different look this upcoming season, as there are four teams who will be guaranteed a trip to Brooklyn for games November 26 and 27. With there being more in-season tournaments, it’s been tougher for the event that has usually been a 16-team single-elimination affair to fill out its bracket. Also of note is the location, as games will be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as opposed to the traditional home of Madison Square Garden.
The most noteworthy of the four teams is Villanova, which has won the last two Big East regular season titles and is seen by many as the early favorite in that conference race. Of course there’s also the fact that Jay Wright’s team has failed to get out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons, something they’ll look to change with a mixture of veterans (Big East co-Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacono leads the way) and newcomers led by McDonald’s All-American Jalen Brunson.
Villanova will take on a Stanford team that looks much different from the one that cut down the nets at the Postseason NIT just over four months ago. Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown and Stefan Nastic are all out of eligibility, but a deep sophomore class led by Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey returns as do veterans Rosco Allen and Marcus Allen (no relation).
The other semifinal matches a team that reached the NCAA tournament last season in Arkansas, and one that fell well short of that goal in Georgia Tech. The Razorbacks, whose front court depth took a hit with the news that incoming freshman Ted Kapita was headed to prep school for at least the first semester, will have to account for the loss of SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis.
For Georgia Tech, this is a big year for head coach Brian Gregory as he looks to turn things around in Atlanta. Marcus Georges-Hunt and Charles Mitchell are among the returnees, and former Alabama forward Nick Jacobs will be eligible after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules.
Arkansas/Georgia Tech will be the first game of the doubleheader on November 26, with the third-place and championship games scheduled for the following afternoon. Also of note in this new setup is that each of the four teams headed to Brooklyn will get to play two home games before making the trip.