Belmont basketball snubbed from NIT, first team out of bracket
Over a span of a couple of weeks, Belmont's men's basketball team went from being on the fast track to another NCAA Tournament berth to being left out of the National Invitation Tournament.
The Bruins, who have the same number of wins (26) as the nation's No. 1 team Gonzaga, which received the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, did not make the NIT field, which was trimmed from 32 to 16 teams this year.
In previous years, Belmont would have received an automatic bid into the NIT as a result of winning the Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship. But with the limited field as a result of COVID-19, there were no automatic bids this year.
Belmont earned the OVC's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament last year by winning the conference tournament championship, but the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.
"I'm extremely proud of the way (our players) have conducted themselves and encouraged each other during a very challenging year," Belmont coach Casey Alexander said. "Perhaps nothing reflects that more than posting the most wins in the nation with Gonzaga. To think over the last two years together our group had two conference championships, one tournament championship — not to mention 30 consecutive league wins — but no postseason games is a tough pill to swallow."
Belmont was the first team left out, which means not all hope is lost.
Belmont could still get into the NIT if one of the teams in the field is unable to play because of a COVID-19 pause, or if one of the top seeds are elevated to the NCAA Tournament because of COVID-19 issues in the bigger event.
Marshall, Furman and Alabama-Birmingham joined Belmont on the "First Four Out" list.
"We look at the whole body of work," said Judy Rose, director of athletics emeritus at Charlotte and chair of the NIT Selection Committee. "We have to compare who we think are the best 16 teams. Who would be the most competitive? It's really no different from what the NCAA committee does. It's not an easy task and that part is not fun, to leave people out."
Belmont was hoping to make its 14th postseason tournament appearance.
The Bruins have earned berths in the NCAA Tournament nine times, the NIT four times and the College Insider Tournament once.
The Bruins missed out on earning their 10th NCAA Tournament berth when they lost three of their last five games, including falling to Morehead State in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship.
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.