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NIT is Madness

March 27, 2003 Columns No Comments

The NIT: A Different Kind of Madness

by Adam Shandler

Renewed rivalries. Close contests. Clutch coaching. Final-second heroics.

Ah, the NIT.

How’re you doing in your NIT pool? What? You don’t have one? You say you haven’t been following? Well, what have you been doing to push off the withdrawal shakes between last Sunday and Thursday?

Much like its younger, more-publicized brother (yes, the NIT has been around a lot longer), this year’s ConAgra NIT has had its share of classic moments, superb performances and fantastic finishes.

What, you don’t believe me? It’s true! With all the NIT has had to offer this year, it should no longer be dubbed “the Not Important Tournament.” Hey, stop laughing. I’m serious! Okay, keep laughing, but I submit the following evidence to change your mind:

Iowa Skirts By Valpo: What a way to open up a tournament. Iowa, which won only four of its last 14 games, got a a game-winning jumper with 11 seconds left from senior Chauncey Leslie. The bucket not only propelled the then 15-13 Hawkeyes into the 1st round, it also ended an Iowa drought of over five minutes without a basket. Leslie gets a Great Performance nod for his decisive deuce, 15 points and senior leadership. Senior leadership…now there’s a term you don’t hear much about in college hoops.

Rhode Island Comes Back Against the Hall: When Seton Hall’s bubble burst on Selection Sunday the Pirates vowed to use the NIT to prove the committee wrong. Well, for about 14 minutes they did, until their 17-point lead evaporated and Rhody stormed back for a 61-60 victory. Dawan Robinson hit for 15 of his 17 points in the second half — including the game-winning three-pointer with just 4 seconds left.

Kann Cans FTs To Upend UIC: Five seconds left. Game tied. Your heart is pounding. You’re at the foul line. If you match this description, chances are you’re Western Michigan’s Anthony Kann, who hit 1-of-2 free throws in the waning moments to give his Broncos a 63-62 opening-round W over Illinois-Chicago.

This was the Broncos first NIT victory in its basketball history.

How ‘Bout Them Owls: It’s just not the postseason without seeing a hoarse and disheveled Jon Chaney occupying the bench. Temple has rolled through this tournament with a lot of poise. First, the Owls disarmed fellow Phil-towner Drexel in the opening round. Then, David Hawkins goes off for 36 points and Temple wastes tournament favorite Boston College, 75-62. Rhode Island was the next victim, 61-53, and the Owls screeched into the quarterfinals against Minnesota, a game to be played on Thursday night. If Temple can knock off the Gophers, they’ll make it to the — ahem — Final Four.

Not bad for a team that came into the bracket just two games over .500.

Georgetown-Carolina Revisited: No, it wasn’t 1982. There was no Patrick Ewing, no Michael Jordan. But there was Rashad McCants and there was Mike Sweetney. Georgetown-Carolina, played on Wednesday night, still had that old spark. Drew Hall drained the Hoya-lifting three with 58 seconds left to give Georgetown a 73-70 lead. Craig Escherick’s team held on for the 79-74 win and a semi-final berth in this tournament.

The General Has Returned: Though he won’t be wearing his red sweater –‘scuse me, Indiana-red sweater — Bobby Knight will be back pacing the sidelines during the NIT semifinals. This marks his sixth NIT final four appearance in his 37-year coaching career.

Behind Knight, Texas Tech will be making its first appearance in any kind of postseason basketball final four.

In 1979, Knight led the Hoosiers to an NIT title with a 53-52 win over in-state and Big Ten rival Purdue.

Convinced yet? Or do I have to come back during next week’s semifinals?


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