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Do you feel that? That rush of newfound excitement — dare I say, madness — in the air at your otherwise dreary internship that doesn’t include leftover catered food from a conference room team building exercise? It must be that magical time of year. That special stretch of spring when people you’d never have a conversation with outside of “How about this weather we’re having?” debate the legitimacy of 18 to 22-year-olds that they know nothing about.
The office pool is emailed out, the organizer only takes PayPal for whatever reason, and the guy who fills out and overanalyzes 47 different brackets loses to the divorced mother of two in HR that picks winners based on the cutest mascots and which states remind her of that piece of work ex-husband that left her for the baby sitter. Yes, it’s the best event in sports that brings work production to a screeching halt and ragtag groups of misfits around the country temporarily closer chattering around the water cooler. It’s the king of kings. The OG. The most prestigious title in the “World’s Most Famous Arena.” The NIT.
Unlike a certain copycat “big dance” that is watered down with the amount of invites their committee extends to any university that isn’t this writer’s alma mater, the NIT is quite a bit more selective with their postseason contest. You won’t find a competition like it anywhere else on the planet. How many teams from that other tournament have an honest shot at winning the whole damn thing? Like give or take 7 schools? Everyone else is just happy to make it out of the first weekend. Make some noise? That’s a loser mentality and I don’t want that kind of negativity in my life.
I need unjustified hope and chaotic parity and the NIT has it in spades. All 32 schools battling it out for the right to cut down the nets on a confetti filled court and be called the 69th best team in the nation have an opportunity to add to the dusty back corner of their trophy room. From powerhouse programs like Valparaiso and UT Arlington to the often overlooked little guys in Syracuse and California, every college kid involved has a real puncher’s chance of securing the all-important and existence validating nike dry fit t-shirt and flat brim hat thanks to the generally apathetic attitude of higher seeds. When they look back years from now, they’ll be telling their grandkids about walking out of the Garden champions of the longest running invitational in the sport.
From a purely entertainment and drama based point of view, the NIT is unrivaled. Do you like game-winning, buzzer-beating shots? How about competent players who have a real shot at making it to the professional level? Fuck no you don’t. That’s not why you’re tuning into college basketball. Deep down, you want to see soon-to-be real estate agents dribble out of bounds off their knees during the last possession. You want to watch future insurance salesmen airmail passes thirty rows into the crowd after freaking out over a soft full-court press. Witnessing guys crumble in the prime of their lives in a fairly meaningless game before slowly fading into the obscurity of a career at Enterprise Rent-A-Car is must watch, can’t miss, edge of your seat television.
So here’s to low scores and even lower moral. To loose ball scuffles and no answers to zone defenses. To the extremely uninterested and way too invested “something to proves.” Crack open a cold one, fire some live bullets with your local bookie, kick back and enjoy the best March has to offer on a Tuesday and Wednesday night..
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