I genuinely believe that projecting the NIT field is much more difficult than projecting the NCAA Tournament field because of a lack of visibility of criteria and fans’ historical lack of familiarity of the process – that has changed multiple times in recent years.
The website, NIT-ology, has become a central spot to visit for lots of fans of teams not projected to receive bids to the NCAA Tournament. To be honest, we haven’t had time to check their historical success rate, so if you have some time please drop us some comments with your thoughts on what you find.
NIT-ology has not updated their projections to include games from Friday yet, but College Hoops Net has comprised an update of their projected NIT field and it has a very strong opinion of the NC State Wolfpack. You can see their projections by clicking here.
CHN seeds NC State as an exceptionally strong #2 seed in the NIT along with UConn, Memphis and Arizona State. Before you scoff at that seeding and projection for the Wolfpack (currently 91st in the RPI), allow me to share the following as a comparison to another of the projected #2 seeds for comparison:
Record vs RPI Top 50
Arizona State: 2-6
NC State 6-5
Record vs projected NCAA Tournament Teams
Arizona State: 2-6
NC State: 7-8
(The Wolfpack would be 8-7 vs NCAA Tournament teams if it weren’t for a friggin 70 foot shot vs the University of Florida.)
The difference between Arizona State gaudy 22-10 record and NC State’s 19-14 record lies simply in strength of schedule and overall competition most easily recognized by the ACC’s #3 ranking in the RPI and the Pac-10′s #8 ranking.
NC State went 11-3 in 14 games played against teams ranked outside of the RPI’s Top 100. Conversely, Arizona State played 21 games against teams outside of the Top 100, compiling an 18-3 mark (with one of those losses coming in a supposed ‘big’ game against Stanford on Thursday night in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament).
It isn’t a stretch that seven additional games against sub-100 competition would more than make up for a three win differential in records, especially when one considers the performance of the two teams against quality competition. Could you imagine what ‘bubble’ NC State could be sitting on if the Wolfpack could have only had the fortue of playing a Pac 10 schedule?