Field Of 64: The Road To Quahog


QUAHOG, R.I. — Teams are celebrating across the nation as they saw their names flashed inside’s annual NIT bracket. The teams will meet in the familiar NCAA style format before finally culminating in an eight-team final in Quahog, Sponsored by the Happy-Go-Lucky Toy Factory and the Pawtucket Brewery, the NIT field has become synonymous with the best of second-tier sporting events like watching people play video games, the CrossFit Games and the NFL Pro Bowl.

To be eligible for the 64 team NIT, teams need a better than .500 overall record, an impressive resume and a lack of representation on the NCAA Selection Committee.

While the selection criteria remained the same, the committee continued its trend of rotating which criteria will carry the most weight. Through the years, the criteria has focused on animal mascot ferocity, a willingness to schedule opponents with bad records, utilized reports from Collegiate Regional Advisory Committee (CRAC) composed exclusively of members of fans of rival programs and had teams contest the games completely in the dark since that is how the teams were kept regarding the selection process.

“We really wanted to make sure we were consistent and use some of the available data after-the-fact to validate picking our favorites,” said Committee Coach-search Liaison Kendall Rogers. “If you have enough data points, eventually there will be one where your team is better than the competition. Then just use that and only that in your explanation.”

For the fifth consecutive season, the committee also utilized the OPI ratings system. The OPI – Optional Performance Index – differs from other ratings systems because teams have the option of choosing which results count. If you lose a game, just don’t count that one.

“It makes it harder to evaluate who actually won but hey, finishing second is nothing to be ashamed of,” Committee Chair Emeritus Eric Sorenson said as he does every year at this time because even if we tried for an entire episode of The Walking Dead we couldn’t come up with a funnier, more clever quote than this one. “St. Peter’s finished second 38 times this season. Good for them. If this was the Olympics they’d have a room full of silver medals.”

The committee met for four hours while standing in line for the new Avatar ride at Disney World, which kept them busy for almost half of their time in line. This season, our committee decided to introduce a new metric to now consider the most important metric ever, intended winning percentage. Similar to intended strength of schedule where teams get partial credit for scheduling teams they expected to be good, intended winning percentage is calculated by adding the opponents each team intended to defeat.

“We needed a way to measure the occurrences when a team intended to win but through no fault of their own, the other team was just better,” said Committee Director of Scrappy Second Baseman Aaron Fitt. “Teams cannot help if a team they expected to defeat is actually a lot better than they are. Maybe the opposing team has an advantage like better facilities, greater weather or more runs scored.”

Even though in the past, the committee had mentioned a specific criteria as important, they reserve the right to tweak that going forward. In the other tournament, conference RPI seemed to just mean more. In years prior, animal mascot ferocity has been vital to the NIT evaluation. This year it was apparently meaningless as the committee focused on the linked but unrelated animal mascot fight club results.

“The whole ferocity thing is not one of our criteria but we kind of use that when we review the fight club results,” said Sorenson. “Bottom line is we saw the outcome where a gopher defeated two squirrels, three rabbits and one overfed beagle. Using that, we project they would do well against lions, tigers and bears – all of which had worse records than the gopher.”

Some teams that had good cases for inclusion in the field were instead left out this year due to the phenomena of stolen bids. Unlike the other tournament that awards automatic bids to the party based on how a team performs in an arbitrary four-to-five day period, the NIT has their own way to award bids.

“We decided to take the controversial stance of awarding our automatic bids to the teams that played the best prior to conference tournaments,” Rogers said as he tried on a male romper. “Sure, sometimes we miss out on a team that was the best for the last five days but we just settle for taking the team that played the best for 14 weeks prior.”

As a result, some teams with resumes that would normally make the NIT were squeezed out of the field.

“There were teams we really wanted to put in the field,” Fitt said as changed out of his ACC pajamas and into his SEC seersucker suit. “When the automatic bid thing started to happen, it looked like the teams we had already decided to include might be in jeopardy. So we exhaustively went through the bracket and found the programs the fewest people would complain about leaving out and we unfollowed those jokers like a beat writer that tweets too much play-by-play.”

Games begin May 32-34 with mini-Regional round. Winners advance to the Super-Duper Regionals played the next day in a sudden-death format where the home team bats exclusively in the first three innings to make sure the regular season is sufficiently rewarded. The winners of that round advance in the hallowed classic dubbed “The Road to Quahog.”

Columbia, SC
Host: South Carolina
Columbia, Mo
Host: Missouri
1 South Carolina
1 Missouri
4 Alabama State4 Central Arkansas
2 Mercer2 Kansas
3 Georgia Southern3 Saint Louis
Norfolk Regional
Host: Old Dominion

Durham Regional Host: Duke
1 Old Dominion1 Duke

4 Norfolk State 4 UNC Wilmington

2 Liberty
2 East Carolina
3 Navy
3 Winthrop
Coral Gables Regional Host: Miami Minneapolis Regional
Host: Minnesota
1 Miami
1 Minnesota
4 North Florida
4 North Dakota State
2 FAU2 Michigan State
3 Jacksonville3 Central Michigan
Lake Charles
Host: MAC-Neese State
Host: Kent State
1 McNeese State
1 Kent State
4 Houston Baptist4 Indiana State
2 Louisiana-Lafayette
2 Wright State
3 Louisiana Tech3 Purdue
Oxford Regional
Host: Ole Miss
Salt Lake City
Host: Utah
1 Ole Miss1 Utah
4 Jackson State
4 New Mexico State
2 Tennessee2 New Mexico
3 Troy3 Kansas State
Spokane Regional
Host: Gonzaga
San Diego Regional
Host: San Diego
1 Gonzaga1 San Diego
4 San Francisco4 Dartmouth
2 Washington2 St. Mary's
3 Oregon
3 UC Bakersfield
Storrs Regional
Host Connecticut
Conway, SC Regional
Host Coastal Carolina
1 Connecticut1 Coastal Carolina
4 Northeastern
4 Presbyterian
2 VCU2 Charlotte
3 Bryant
3 High Point
Kingston Regional
Host: Rhode Island
Los Angeles Regional
Host Loyola Marymount

1 Rhode Island
1 Loyola Marymount
4 Fairfield4 Morehead State
2 Seton Hall
2 Fresno State
3 Canisius
3 Hawaii

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