The NIT's regional concept may have saved the tournament. There is one teeny-weeny problem, though.
It is done privately and, unlike in other tournaments, continuously.
After every round, the NIT decides how to match the surviving schools, and where. Since the home court means something--in this tournament, home teams have won 24 of 28 games--the NIT is open to the charge that it sets up the winners and losers.
Of this year's four finalists, three--UCLA, Indiana and Louisville--played all three games at home. The fourth, Tennessee, played two at home.
Why, for example, didn't Fresno State (23-8), coming off two NIT sellouts, get the home date against UCLA (18-12), which had sold a total of 12,000 tickets for two games?
The NIT won't discuss it but points out that it has a handbook full of guidelines. Choices are made on the basis of site availability, size and ticket price, as well as the strength of the teams.
What if Fresno suspects that the NIT wanted UCLA's name and thus put the game at Pauley? It wouldn't be against the law, although it would be a little discouraging to the Fresnos of this earth.
Is the NIT uninterested in who wins? On the halftime show of KMPC's broadcast of the UCLA-Fresno game, George Bisacca, legal counsel of the NIT committee, said that if the Bruins won, they'd play in the featured 9 p.m. game Wednesday in New York.
And even before the game, Bob McCarthy of the Fresno Bee complained that the whole thing had been "wired for UCLA."
The NIT's only response is to explain why it won't say anything.
Executive director Peter Carlesimo said: "We never comment on the contents of any meeting on site selection or pairings. It's just one constant hassle."
That's a safe bet.