Friday, March 29, 2013

When The NIT Was The Premier Tournament

Rhode Island could not stop George Mikan in the NIT. (DePaul/Getty)

March Madness is one of the most exciting times for basketball. The best college athletes get together to play an exciting 68-team tournament where upsets are plentiful. A year without March Madness would be an empty one.

So can you believe that at one time the National Invitation Tournament was actually the premier basketball tournament in the world? The NIT used to host players such as George Mikan, Ed Macauley, Lenny Wilkens and Maurice Stokes.

Before every game was nationally televised, the NCAA Tournament didn’t have the same amount of exposure it does today. The NIT was always held in Madison Square Garden, which boasted crowds of 19,000. Meanwhile, the NCAA was hosted in different areas of the country. Teams had a hard time meeting the travel expenses for the NCAA Tournament and played in smaller arenas.

In 1951, City College of New York was caught in a point shaving scandal which included seven schools in total and sent shock waves throughout the basketball world. New York City as a whole was quickly turned off college basketball.

The point shaving scandal came at a perfect time for the NCAA Tournament. Advances in travel and the development in television allowed the NCAA to quickly ascend to the premier tournament that we are all watching and enjoying this March.

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