The NIT isn't the tourney teams are looking for, but it is better than nothing. Free practice time. More games for experience. A win-or-go-home atmosphere.
There are 347 Division I teams. 68 go to the NCAA, 32 go to the NIT, 32 mid and low majors go to the CIT, and 16 teams go to the CBI. Even with all of those tournaments, over 57% of teams in the nation don't get a post season tourney. So yeah, the extra games are important.
Of the tournaments, the NIT has the preferential treatment. It's an old tournament, so well warranted, and it finishes in Madison Square Garden. Every team who wins their conferences regular season title received an invite to the NIT. They obviously won't accept that bid if they also receive a bid to the big dance.
Regardless, here are the conference winners, and which tourney they will be going to.
|America East||Stony Brook||NIT|
|Atlantic 10||Saint Louis||NCAA|
|Big South||Charleston Southern||NIT|
|Big West||Long Beach State||NIT|
|Mountain West||New Mexico||NCAA|
|Southland||Stephen F. Austin||TBD|
|Sun Belt||Middle Tennessee||TBD|
There are nine spots filled so far in the NIT, with four still to be determined. Right now we're looking at somewhere between 19-23 at-large spots available.
The NIT is also a political and economic affair. Those 19-23 spots won't go to the best 19-23 teams left over, they'll go to the ones who can put butts in the seats. Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, etc... can be guaranteed that they'll have home games in the NIT if the NCAA falls through. A team with lousy fan support like Florida State could be pushed to the CBI.