Posted: 9:02 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013
By Parks Smith
The Preseason NIT isn't what it used to be, but all in all it's always a pretty decent field and does still bring the lore of possibly playing in Madison Square Garden. Last year Delaware was the surprise team taking down Penn and Virginia in route to the "World's Most Famous Arena". This year's bracket was released yesterday and could pose more opportunity for mid-majors to make their way to the Big Apple early this year.
Arizona grabbed the number one seed for the tournament and will face Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round, lead by new head coach Greg Herenda. The other match up in the regional will feature Division II Metro State and Rhode Island. While Arizona should walk through this regional, the second round match up does pose a good "measuring stick" match up for Rhode Island. The Rams have been a trendy pick in the Atlantic 10 this offseason.
The second regional will be held at Rutgers and features three dangerous mid-major teams. The Scarlet Knights are still reeling from a tumultuous offseason and will draw Billy Baron's Canisius Golden Griffins. Canisius was one of the nation's most improved teams a year ago and should still be pretty good this year. The other side of the bracket features a tantalizing mid-major match up and a future Colonial Athletic Association preview. Elon, our preseason pick to win the Southern Conference, will take on a Drexel team that can compete for a CAA title. On paper this is the most competitive pod and Rutgers is going to have a tough time getting to New York.
Alabama will host the third pod and will face off against non-Division I opponent Stillman College. In the second round the Tide could get a dangerous match up from likely Georgia State. The Panthers take on McNeese State in the first round. Georgia State adds Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow to an already talented team, lead by the coach's son RJ Hunter. Hunter averaged 17 points and 5 rebounds per game his freshman year.
The last pod will be held at Cameron Indoor and could be a cake walk for the host Blue Devils. Duke will host UNC Asheville in the first round and the Bulldogs shouldn't pose much of a problem. On the other side of the bracket East Carolina will face Norfolk State, in a game that could be pretty close. Neither the Pirates nor Spartans should bother the Blue Devils though.