I used Sports Reference to see how past N.I.T. champions have fared in the subsequent year. The data are based on 75 previous N.I.T. winners.
The year after winning the N.I.T., 43 of the 75 teams were ranked in the A.P. Top 25 at some point in the season! Five were ranked as #1. This is despite the fact that only 18 of the N.I.T. winners were ranked in the Top 25 at preseason. How did these teams do in the post-season? Fourteen of the 75 N.I.T. winners won their conference's regular season. Only six of the 75 won their conference tournament.
The Big Dance
When it comes NCAA tournament time, the N.I.T. winners don't fare as well. How did they do?
The good news for Gopher fans is that, since the NCAA tournament expanded to include 48 teams in 1975, two-thirds of the N.I.T. champions (26 teams) have made the NCAA tournament the year after winning the N.I.T.
Now for the bad news. Of those 26 N.I.T. winners that received a tournament bid, 10 were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament and another 10 were eliminated in the second round, leaving a mere six N.I.T. winners playing after the first weekend.
These teams included,
- Kentucky (1976-77)
- Indiana (1979-80)
- Virgina (1980-81; 1992-93)
- West Virginia (2007-08)
- Baylor (2013-14)
Even if the causal claims of the N.I.T. leading to a team's eminent success were dubious before, the data suggest that a claim like that is just plain wrong. Maybe Minnesota will provide an outlying case. Maybe it's just a 69th place finish.