On Tuesday, Madison Square Garden, fresh off a thrilling NCAA Tournament East Regional weekend, hosted the finals of the 80th National Invitation Tournament. Our nation’s oldest postseason tournament featured four teams who had never captured the title, three of whom were making their maiden appearance in the NIT Final Four.
For CSU Bakersfield and Central Florida, it was more than just getting to New York. Both had grand designs on winning it all. As said before, March can be the cruelest month. Fate turned out to be such for both teams, as Georgia Tech and TCU ended the upset bids, defeating CSU Bakersfield and UCF, respectively.
The next night, on the other side of the Hudson River, Saint Peter’s appeared in their first national semifinal since the 1968 NIT. On that night nearly half a century ago, the Peacocks were defeated by a Jo Jo White-led Kansas team in the NIT semifinals. This evening, the venue was Yanitelli Center on campus, with the opponent being Furman in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Saint Peter’s thrilled their adoring fans and a number of basketball alumni, including some from that 1968 team, with a one-sided victory that sent the Peacocks to Friday’s CIT championship game, capping a special night when the Saint Peter’s faithful remembered history while seeing another chapter written.
On Thursday in New York, the NIT final was on tap between Georgia Tech and TCU. We once again were served a reminder that although the analysis, breakdowns and numbers are great points of reference, it all comes down to execution on the court. TCU had a great night, Georgia Tech was decidedly below standard, resulting in an 88-56 rout by the Horned Frogs. The NIT championship capped off a rags-to-riches turnaround for TCU under the guidance of Jamie Dixon, in his first year at the helm of his alma mater following a long run at the University of Pittsburgh.
Three days, or nights, of tournament basketball; in the process, great nights with a wealth of stories, a main reason March is so special to college fans.
CSU Bakersfield head coach Rod Barnes in action:
The nation's oldest postseason recognized on the Madison Square Garden jumbotron:
Josh Pastner meets the media after Georgia Tech's semifinal win:
Veteran official Brian O'Connell had a piece of the NIT action, working the TCU-UCF battle:
UCF's dominant center, 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall, in the post against TCU:
Chazz Patterson on the move offensively for Saint Peter's:
Ray, pictured with Saint Peter's alumni Elnardo Webster (left) and Harry Laurie (right) from the Peacocks' 1968 NIT team:
Saint Peter's fans in a postgame victory shot:
Head coach John Dunne and the Peacocks addressing the media:
Outside Madison Square Garden on NIT championship night:
Georgia Tech's band, entering the Garden:
TCU, lined up for the national anthem and player introductions:
TCU's inbounds defense:
In-game action between Georgia Tech and TCU:
Their victory in the books, TCU holds the NIT championship trophy aloft:
Jamie Dixon, discussing the finer points of his team's championship after the game: