A friend of my posed an interesting question recently.
Which is better, winning the NIT or being one and done in the NCAA tournament.
Of course, he was referencing the Minnesota men’s basketball team winning the National Invitation Tournament and the Iowa Hawkeyes losing in the “First Four.”
Well, my first thought is neither.
In 10 years, nobody will remember the NIT.
Or the First Four, for that matter.
All that will be remembered is the NCAA champion — Connecticut.
So my initial response was that neither is an envious position.
But then I started thinking a little more.
I had to first give credit to the Gophers. Winning any tournament is impressive. Having the experience of playing some good teams and playing in Madison Square Garden will be helpful down the road. I would think it would be especially helpful for a young coach to gain that experience. Having a few more weeks of practice for the returning players to learn the system is certainly a positive. And, for the outgoing players, a win in your final game — no matter where it is — leaves a much more positive stamp on your college experience.
However, I started thinking about the NCAA Tournament. How many people watch the tournament? How many fill out a bracket? People who know little or nothing about college basketball fill them out. Shoot, even the President of the United States fills out a bracket.
I don’t see many people going in on a NIT pool. I don’t see our president predicting the NIT champion.
So, on the prestige aspect, I have to give it to the NCAA tournament, and Iowa.
Am I happy for the Gophers? Yes.
Am I disappointed in the Hawks? Definitely.
Minnesota needed something to feel good about this season. They needed a good showing in the NIT, and they got it. I just hope they can keep that momentum going into next season. As Richard Pitino goes into his second season as the Gophers’ head coach, I think there is definitely room to improve.
But as far as the question, I’ll say Iowa is better. Even being one and done in the NCAA tournament is better than winning the NIT.
I may be slightly biased, but all things considered, more attention and more prestige goes to the NCAA tourney.
I’m just hoping that Iowa can use that experience to go a little further next season.