For the first time since 2006, the Mid-American Conference has qualified two teams into the National Invitational Tournament, as the regular-season champion Toledo Rockets and the conference tournament #2 seed Buffalo Bulls were both selected for consideration on Sunday evening.
This will be Toledo’s ninth appearance in the NIT, and the program’s first since 2019, while Buffalo is making their second-ever appearance, with a 1-1 performance in the 2005 tournament.
Unlike previous season, this year’s edition of the NIT will feature only 16 teams, down from the traditional 32 teams, and will all take place in one location, with the University of North Texas’ Comerica Center serving as the venue for all 16 games over the week-and-a-half of play. For the first time since 2003, there will be a third-place game for the two semi-final losers as a consolation round.
Toledo is 21-8 overall (16-5 MAC), and coming off a regular season title in the re-adjusted conference schedule, which scrapped divisions in favor of a round-robin set-up. Their last game was an 87-80 loss to the Ohio Bobcats on Friday evening, which assured them an automatic bid to the NIT, as they failed to win their post-season conference tournament, and did not grab an at-large berth.
Buffalo, winners of five of the previous six MAC postseason tournaments prior to this season, is 16-7 overall (14-6 MAC), with their last game a loss in the finals to the same Ohio Bobcats who felled the Rockets the night before, suffering an 84-69 defeat on Saturday evening.
The Rockets, a #3 seed, will face the #2 Richmond Spiders of the Atlantic 10 Conference, while the fourth-seeded Bulls will face the #1 seed Colorado State Rams of the Mountain West Conference.
Toledo vs. Richmond will air March 17, at 7 p.m. EST, while Colorado State vs. Buffalo will air March 19 at 5 p.m. EST.
All games will be aired on either ESPN or ESPN2.
The entirety of the bracket can be found here:
The NIT remains the biggest challenge in sports to pick and handicap. pic.twitter.com/krJjr2XFr7— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) March 15, 2021