OT: To play or not to play

The National Invitational Tournament finals are being hosted at Hinkle Fieldhouse in 2024. Photo courtesy of Sportico.com

TREVOR FOX | STAFF REPORTER | trfox@butler.edu 

Overtime, or “OT”, is an opinion column series where the Collegian takes national sports headlines or polarizing topics and gives them a Butler-centric angle

Butler’s season was given another glimmer of hope during Selection Sunday on March 17 when the selection committee announced that the Bulldogs were picked to play in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The 18-win Bulldogs hosted the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the opening round at Hinkle Fieldhouse. 

This bid was a surprise to some, as a few Butler fans feared the Bulldogs would not be rewarded a postseason after losing five of their last seven games. Other Butler fans entertained the idea of potentially declining an NIT bid if it was offered. Despite this, the Bulldogs chose to accept the bid. 

In that game, the home team led for a majority of the match. With around 30 seconds left in the game, Butler led by one point and the ball was in the hands of guard DJ Davis. The Gophers pressured Davis, causing him to throw the ball away on a crosscourt pass attempt. Minnesota then stole the ball, went down the court and scored. Jahmyl Telfort’s jumper to win the game was no good as time expired, and the Bulldogs lost. 

This tough loss only confirmed some fans’ belief that teams should not accept NIT bids. Sophomore economics major Aidan Finneran doesn’t think the NIT has much appeal. 

“With the new rules, the NIT is essentially worthless,” Finneran said. “Nobody wants to see a bunch of sh*tty high majors play each other. People want the really good mid-majors who got screwed [to play in the NIT]. [It] has also lost a majority of its appeal with it not being at Madison Square Garden.” 

Finneran was strongly against Butler accepting their NIT bid. 

“Teams like Butler should use this time as an advantage and try to get a leg up on schools with a stronger NIL fund by recruiting kids earlier,” Finneran said. 

Nolan Hamilton, a sophomore sports media and strategic communication double major, disagrees with Finneran. 

“For Butler, I think [participating in the NIT is] a great thing,” Hamilton said. “I think especially for Thad because if you look at his Ohio State team, his second or third year they won the NIT and then that led to him going to those Final Fours.” 

Butler’s performance in the game against Minnesota might have played a role in Davis’ decision to enter the transfer portal. Davis — Butler’s third-leading-scorer on the season — turned the ball over at the end of the game and was visibly upset with himself after that moment. To make matters worse, the final shot went to Telfort and not Davis, although Davis was typically the first look on out-of-bounds plays. 

Sophomore sports media major Cooper Garland doesn’t believe the game impacted Davis’ decision as Garland said that he believes Davis made his decision to enter the portal before the game. Garland doesn’t believe there are consequences for competing in the NIT and supports the tournament. 

“I think as what it is, which is just a lower level tournament, it works well and it has a lot of people paying attention,” Garland said. 

Not all people have the same mindset as Garland though, as many teams chose not to compete in the NIT this time around. Teams such as Pitt, St. John’s, Memphis, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Indiana and Syracuse were reportedly selected for the tournament but declined

There are multiple factors that go into this decision to decline a bid. Some teams reason that they want to get ahead in terms of recruiting while other schools believe their reputation is too great to be tarnished by competing in this lower level tournament. 

The decision of St. John’s to not compete in the NIT was the most viral choice this year. The Red Storm finished with a 20-13 record, and their head coach, Rick Pitino, announced that they wouldn’t be participating in the tournament. 

Pitino was under the firm belief that St. John’s should’ve been in the pool of 68 NCAA tournament terms. The Red Storm coach was shocked by the lack of Big East teams in the Big Dance, and he thought that St. John’s — along with Providence and Seton Hall — should have made the pool. In addition, he said that Seton Hall not making the tournament was “flat out wrong.” 

Whether or not St. John’s should have made the NCAA tournament is up for debate, but Finneran doesn’t agree with Pitino’s logic of declining an NIT bid. 

“[For] a team like St. John’s, I think not accepting for them was stupid,” Finneran said. “They had six grad transfers and you’re telling half the guys that you have on scholarship that your career is over and you can’t play any postseason basketball.” 

The trend of teams declining NIT bids doesn’t look to be slowing down in the next few years, and whether teams should play in the tournament will remain a question for years to come.


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