Congratulations to Northwestern. The Wildcats got the best possible scenario on Sunday night when they found out that not only were they in the NIT, but hosting a game against Horizon League regular season champion Milwaukee as well.
Northwestern to play Milwaukee in the NIT
The Panthers earned the number one seed in the Horizon League thanks to nine straight conference wins down the back stretch, but they fell behind early in the championship at home against Butler and ended up in the NIT. The 5-seed for the Panthers bit is a bit surprising, but combine that with the 2-seed for Cleveland State and you see the respect that the NIT committee had for the Horizon League this season.
Also, this seeding allowed for a convenient game in Evanston. The trip from Milwaukee and Welsh-Ryan Arena is only about 90 minutes, depending on how fast you drive, and thus there could be large number of Panther fans in attendance.
The only surprise in the bracket from my analysis of the tournament is that the Dayton Flyers received a 3 seed. Dayton went 7-9 in the Atlantic 10 and has four victories over NCAA and NIT tournament teams, but also two really bad losses. The Flyers made the championship game of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, but they lost three straight before then.
Honestly, if the NIT would've switched the seeds of Harvard and Dayton I would be more okay with it. The Crimson got screwed after losing a playoff to Princeton. Harvard has a profile that has a number of good wins and no bad losses, but they'll play at Oklahoma State on Tuesday night.
Other than that though the NIT did a really good job with the bracket. Tomorrow I'll start extensive coverage of the Panthers. Milwaukee is led by Anthony Hill, a first team All-Horizon League senior forward, and Kaylon Williams, a point guard who influences the game in a number of ways. Also look out for Tony Meier, because if he can get going the Panthers are a much more balanced team offensively. I know some Milwaukee bloggers from my Horizon League coverage, so expect to see their opinions on here as well in the next two days.
For now I'll open with this. According to current Ken Pomeroy's current rankings, Northwestern - playing at home - is an 88% favorite in the game.
Postseason basketball catch it!