The NIT is hard to get into. Let that sink in a little bit. I'm sure many of you are still saying, or at least thinking, "Joe, you are out of your mind! The NIT isn't hard to get into. I remember teams that the Hokies had that weren't as good as this one, and they made the NIT with ease." You are correct about the last part. This Hokie team is quite a bit better than some Hokie squads that even had home games in the NIT. But times they are a changing and the NIT might not be The Dance, but it has become something to be quite proud of now, especially for this group of Hokies. Let's look at why that is the case.
1. The New Rules.
The NIT has changed the rules to get in and substantially made it more difficult for a team like Tech. Now, if you win the regular season of your conference, but don't win the conference tournament or make the NCAA's, you get an automatic bid to the NIT. While this rule is great for low to mid-major teams and is in many ways a step in the right direction for the tournament as a whole, it really hurts the Hokies who will never win the regular season of the ACC, but not make The Dance. In most years, you are looking at 7-9 teams that this helps out. With only 32 teams in the NIT and the Hokies being a bubble NIT team right now, those spots may be the difference between a bid or no bid.
We've heard this word over and over again in sports recently, but it must be stated that college basketball has many more good teams than it ever has before, even if none of them are great. While this means that the Hokies really can win against almost anyone, none of the wins they get mean as much as they used to, and since there are still bad teams out there as well, you have to be well above .500 to be a solid basketball team now. This means that while the Hokies beat UVA and NC State, the losses against Iowa St, WVU, and Alabama St, hurt even more now. That isn't to say that the Hokies haven't improved this season, they are a far better team now than back in November, but unless they win a couple of games in the ACC Tournament, that might not be enough.
3. You Do Remember That The Hokies Won Only 2 Conference Games Last Year Right?!?
This is really the biggest part of why making it to the NIT would be such a coup for the Hokies. From 2 conference wins one year, to the NIT the next, especially with it being that much more difficult of a tournament to make than ever before, this would be a gigantic step for this program. This team has always played hard for Coach Williams, but now they are getting the wins to back up that hard work. Throw in a chance at more practices, more games, and another offseason to work on development, and this young team might be a real force next season.
Just a couple more games left before we find out the Hokies fate, but regardless, this season has been impressive. But the NIT, well that would be something wouldn't it?