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Don't Be Surprised To See Marquette Left Out Of The NIT

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It could happen, it might not. Because of the automatic bid rules, the Golden Eagles could easily miss out on an at-large bid.

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Your Marquette Golden Eagles are sitting with a record of 20-13 on the season after losing to Xavier in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.  If you've been paying attention to NCAA tournament bracketology, you are already aware that you won't hear Marquette's name called when CBS announces the 68 team field later today.  It's just not happening.

That turns our attention to the NIT, as it's the next postseason tournament down the food chain.  I'm not expecting to hear Marquette's name called at 7:30pm Central on ESPNU, either.

Here's the deal: The NIT is a 32 team tournament, split into four 8-team pods.  They're required by rule to take any conference regular season champion that does not earn a spot in the NCAA tournament, either by at-large or automatic bid.  Right now, there are nine teams that won the regular season championship, did not win the conference tournament, and have zero chance of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA field: Belmont, Bucknell, High Point, IPFW, New Mexico State, North Florida, Texas Southern, UAB, and Wagner.

That leaves just 23 at-large spots.  There is also the Sun Belt Championship to take into account.  That doesn't tip off until noon Central today, and their #1 seed, Little Rock, is still alive.  The Trojans are occupying an 11 seed line on Sunday morning according to Bracket Matrix, but that's not very safe for them.  They're the first of the run of automatic bids running down to the six 16 seeds, and a loss to Louisiana-Monroe today would certainly knock them clear of edging into the at-large field.  That could take the at-large spots down to 22.

There are another eight teams with regular season championships that are hovering around the NCAA cut line according to Bracket Matrix: Akron, Hofstra, Monmouth, Saint Mary's, San Diego State, Temple, Valparaiso, and Wichita State.  Some of those are safer than others, but I'm not willing to say that any of them are cleanly in at this point.  Some of these eight will probably get in the NCAA field, and some will not.  Somewhere between zero and eight more spots are going to be taken by these teams.  Bracket Matrix's most recent NIT field update (on March 11) had Temple, Valparaiso, Monmouth, and Hofstra in the NIT, but this was also before Akron and San Diego State lost.

That Bracket Matrix NIT projection does not have Marquette in the field.

NYC Buckets updated their NIT field just after midnight this morning.  They did not have Marquette in their field.

If Marquette does in fact miss the NIT, then the question becomes whether or not the Golden Eagles should continue to play this season.  The two options available to them are the CBI and the Vegas 16, and according to Matt Velazquez's blog post on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's website, both have a financial component involved.

The CBI is a 16 team event run by The Gazelle Group, the same people that run the Legends Classic, the event MU participated in back in November, as well as the 2K Classic, the event that Marquette will play in this coming November.  If you want to host games in that event, you have to pay for that privilege, starting at $50,000 for first round games and going up from there.  ESPNU will televise the finals, a three game series with each team playing at least one home game.

The Vegas 16 is new this year, and is run by BD Global.  It's a - wait for it - 16 team tournament held at - you're not going to believe this - the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.  It's going to cost each team involved $50,000 to participate, but it appears to be a one-time fee.  CBS Sports Network will televise the quarterfinal, semifinal, and championship games, with the opening round games getting a streaming experience through the Vegas 16 website.

What do you think?  If Marquette is left out of the NIT, should they keep playing this season?  Which tournament should they play in?