The establishment of the NIT actually preceded the NCAA tournament by a year. In 1938, a group of sportswriters organized the first NIT. Before that, the national champion in college basketball was determined by poll.
Arizona State basketball has been no stranger to the NIT in recent years. The Sun Devils advanced to the quarterfinals in 2008 and lost their first game in 2010.
This year, the third-seeded Sun Devils (21-12) will host No. 6 Detroit (20-12), which finished second in the Horizon League, in the first round of NIT competition. The Titans are led by their point guard, 6-foot-3 Ray McCallum, who was the Horizon League player of the year after averaging 18.8 points and 4.5 assists per game. The two teams will meet on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.
Other Pac-12 teams to make the NIT include Washington and Stanford. The sixth-seeded Huskies play No. 3 BYU. The fourth-seeded Cardinal face No. 5 Stephen F. Austin.
According to ASU coach Herb Sendek, Sun Devil followers will be surprised at the strength of this year’s NIT roster. Among the participants are major programs such as Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee.
“I’m truly taken aback by how strong this field is,” Sendek said. “There are some really good teams, some really good programs. It’s just a really strong indicator of how much balance there is in college basketball.”
The first three rounds of the NIT will run through March 27th at campus sites, with the NIT semifinals and finals being held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The semifinals will be on April 2nd with the championship on April 4th.
If ASU beats Detroit, it would face the winner of No. 2 Baylor and No. 7 Long Beach State.
Tickets for the NIT will go on-sale to the general public beginning at 2 p.m. on Monday online. The game will be free to attend for students who bring their student ID to the south entrance.