While office pools across the country are scrambling to get every secretary (sorry, Administrative Assistant) to turn over their $10 to pad the pot, the tournament gets ready to tip-off tonight.
No, I am not talking about the opening round game between the Alabama State Hornets and the Morehead State Eagles (My computer says the Eagles have a 54 percent chance of moving on to get killed by Louisville.)
I am talking the NIT, the only tournament that matters in the 113-mile area that connects Evanston to South Bend, Ind., unless you are one of those that excels at prognostication.
Eight games are on the slate tonight as teams try to take something from this season and turn it into success the next time around.
Ohio State turned last year’s championship into a No. 8 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.
West Virginia, the 2007 champion, reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2008. The runner-up, Clemson, was No. 5 seed but ran into a hot Villanova team.
Two-time defending champ South Carolina started the 2007 season 10-3 before getting rolled by a hot SEC conference that ultimately produced NCAA champ Florida.
Or, at least 32 teams hope so, including the Northwestern Wildcats (and Notre Dame Fighting Irish).
Unfortunately for them, they are matched against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane who is making its ninth NIT appearance (That is five more than Northwestern for those of you scoring at home).
According to the computer projections used to predict the odds of winning the Big Ten tournament, Northwestern has an 82.65 percent chance of going home without a win to its credit. That means no match-up against Auburn, no magical run to Madison Square Garden.
So where is the good news in all that? Well, Bowling Green has a worse chance of pulling a road upset in the first round.
Big Ten comrade Penn State is also projected to bow out to George Mason, despite earning its No. 2 seed and playing at home. So there is some Big Ten solidarity.
Stepping back, it probably isn’t as bad as it sounds. The Wildcats are competing, which is something even if the game result is different than they would like. Plus upsets happen all the time; that is why there are percentage chances, not locks.
Speaking of upsets, the rest of the field should be watching out for the No. 6 seed in the San Diego State region, Davidson. The N.C.-version of the Wildcats is the computer’s projected winner of the tournament, ultimately having a 53.93 percent chance of defeating the Florida Gators in the championship.
To get there, they would have to face a higher-seeded team every step of the way. They better hope Stephen Curry doesn’t twist his ankle getting on and off the bus somewhere along the very long path to New York (Based on projections, the path would go from South Carolina to California to Kansas before ending in the Big Apple).
Here are the projected winners in the first round, along with the chance the computer gives the team:
- San Diego State over Weber State – 85.65 percent
- Kansas State over Illinois State – 51.67 percent
- Davidson over South Carolina – 53.93 percent
- St. Mary’s over Washington State – 82.65 percent
- Auburn over Tennessee-Martin – 82.65 percent
- Tulsa over Northwestern – 82.65 percent
- Baylor over Georgetown – 50.17 percent
- Virginia Tech over Duquesne – 51.67 percent
- Creighton over Bowling Green – 93.49 percent
- Kentucky over UNLV – 78.24 percent
- New Mexico over Nebraska – 82.65 percent
- UAB over Notre Dame – 51.67 percent
- Florida over Jacksonville – 85.65 percent
- Miami over Providence – 51.67 percent
- Niagara over Rhode Island – 78.24 percent
- George Mason over Penn State – 51.67 percent