When it comes to the post season in the college ranks what all coaches preach is the idea that the teams get more practice time together and more game competition is better than none. On the football side of things it allows coaches to give freshman more time to practice and the team gets a trip somewhere nice (or Shreveport) to play against another division 1 team with a similar record, along with swag and some nice meals out.
On the basketball side of things, a post season trip ends up in the NCAAs and everyone is happy or one that ends up in the NIT, and everyone is less than enthused. For the trip that ends in an NIT berth, the results can seemingly either go one of two ways, either the team gets up for the challenge and goes out there to win (think Baylor last year) or they feel so put upon that they don't even make the effort and go out with a whimper (think Kentucky last year).
From our point of view, Mizzou has already won game one and it appears that the team is going into the NIT following Jabari Brown's lead of "play until they turn the lights out." Now obviously as it relates to Mizzou specifically, we can't glean much about how the 2014 - 2015 Tigers will look until we know the fate of Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown; will they stay or will they go?
However, what we can do is look at what past teams have made of their success in the NIT as a spring board for a subsequent NCAA tournament invite the following year. For this exercise I decided to look back to the "Elite 8" from every NIT from 2006 until now. I chose 2006 because that was the year after Mizzou last participated in the NIT before this year.
The easiest way to look at this was in my mind in tabular format:
|Year||Elite 8||NIT Champion||NCAA Participant the Next Year and Result||Return Trip to the NIT the Next Year|
|2013||Alabama, Baylor, BYU, Iowa, Maryland, Providence, Southern Miss, and Virginia||Baylor||Virginia (#1 Seed), Baylor (#6 Seed), BYU (#10 Seed), Providence (#11 Seed), and Iowa (#11 Seed, Play In Game)||Southern Miss (#3 Seed)|
|2012||Drexel, Middle Tennessee State, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Stanford UMass, and Washington||Stanford||Oregon (lost in Sweet 16), Minnesota (lost in second round) and Middle Tennessee State (lost in play in game)||Stanford (lost in second round), UMass (lost in first round) and Washington (lost in first round)|
|2011||Alabama, College of Charleston, Colorado, Kent State, Miami, Northwestern, Washington State and Wichita State||Wichita State||Colorado (lost in second round) Alabama (lost in first round) and Wichita State (lost in first round)||Miami (lost in second round) and Northwestern (lost in second round)|
|2010||Dayton, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas Tech, UAB and Virginia Tech||Dayton||North Carolina (lost in elite 8), Illinois (lost in second round)||Virginia Tech (lost in second round), Dayton (lost in first round) and Mississippi (lost in first round)|
|2009||Auburn, Baylor, Florida, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Penn State, San Diego State and St. Mary's,||Penn State||Baylor (lost in elite 8), Kentucky (lost in elite 8), St. Mary's (lost in sweet 16), Florida (lost in first round), Notre Dame (lost in first round) and San Diego State (lost in first round)||NONE|
|2008||Arizona State, Dayton, Florida, Mississippi, Ohio State, Syracuse, UMass and Virginia Tech||Ohio State||Syracuse (lost in sweet 16), Arizona State (lost in second round), Dayton (lost in second round) and Ohio State (lost in first round)||Florida (lost in quarter finals) and Virginia Tech (lost in second round)|
|2007||Air Force, Clemson, DePaul, Florida State, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Syracuse and West Virginia||West Virginia||West Virginia (lost in elite 8), Mississippi State (lost in second round) and Clemson (lost in round 1)||Syracuse (lost in quarter finals) and Florida State (lost in first round)|
|2006||Cincinnati, Hofstra, Louisville, Miami, Michigan, Missouri State, Old Dominion and South Carolina||South Carolina||Louisville (lost in round 2) and Old Dominion (lost in round 1)||Michigan (lost in second round), Hofstra (lost in first round) and Missouri State (lost in first round)|
So what can take if anything from this looking towards Mizzou in the coming year?
First off, for the teams that make the Elite 8 of the NIT, close to half end up making the NCAA tournament the next year and about a quarter end up back in the NIT. So if nothing else, we can presume that Mizzou will not slip further back from where they are currently and a run at a postseason tournament should be in the cards for next year.
But what made the teams successful that made the jump from a good showing in the NIT to a berth in the NCAAs? When I look at the teams that made the jump the constant I find is the success of those schools can simply be attributed to the coach at that school and experience.
West Virginia made the jump with Bob Huggins in his first year, as did Kentucky with Calipari. For schools like UNC, Florida, Ohio State or Syracuse, you have coaches like Williams, Donovan, Matta and Boeheim who are not going to have multiple down years simply because they recruit too well and have had previous success at those institutions and people want to play for them.
For the smaller schools, the Wichita States or Virginia's you have program builders in Greg Marshall and Tony Bennett that were successful before their current stop and are implementing a similar philosophy at their current school, leading to two #1 seeds in this year's NCAA Tournament. Mind you, both these teams have senior and junior leadership who have been with the program for three and four years, while also have sophomores who have either competed in the NCAAs or the NIT previously and are battle tested.
So back to the original question, what does this mean for Mizzou? Simply put, I don't know. We don't know the roster composition and that will make all the difference. If Brown and Clarkson stay, this team should flourish with senior leadership, a sophomore class with a year under it's belt, multiple transfers who have played D1 ball (one with a ring) and two freshmen coming in with high star rankings who appear to have had stellar senior seasons by all accounts.
What do you think? Does past NIT success mean future NCAA invites? Is it really as simple as the coach on the bench and the experience gained by younger players? Is it just a blip of a bad year or a downward trend as it was for Seth Greenberg at Virginia Tech which led to a desk job at ESPN? Honestly, I can not say, but successful programs seem to make it appear as a blip. What say you Mizzou?