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Saturday, March 11, 2006
Regular-season champs could steal bids

By Joe Lunardi
Special to ESPN Insider

With Selection Sunday just a day away, we can take a guess as to how the NIT field might shake out by applying NCAA selection criteria to its new baby brother.

Please note the following five groups of teams and the respective descriptions of each:

Groupings as of games played on March 10.

GROUP ONE
These are teams 1-16 on the board if the season ended today. In addition to receiving a bye in the opening round, they would host games in the subsequent round of 32.
• Michigan
• Utah State
• Hofstra
• Maryland
• Western Kentucky (AUTOMATIC BID)
• Creighton
• George Mason
• Air Force
• Miami-FL
• Virginia
• Colorado
• Louisville
• South Carolina
• UTEP
• Old Dominion
• Houston

GROUP TWO
These are teams 17-24 on the potential board. Each would receive a bye in the opening round, but travel to one of the schools in Group One in the round of 32.
• Vanderbilt
• BYU
• Louisiana Tech
• Clemson
• Manhattan (AUTOMATIC BID)
• UNLV
• Akron
• Nebraska

GROUP THREE
These are teams 25-32 on the board. Each would host an opening-round game against a team in Group Four below.
• Charlotte
• Rutgers
• Temple
• Xavier
• Butler
• Stanford
• Northeastern
• Oklahoma State

GROUP FOUR
These are teams 33-40 on the NIT board. Each would travel to a team in Group Three for an opening-round game. • Miami-OH
• Notre Dame
• Minnesota
• Wake Forest
• Northern Arizona (AUTOMATIC BID)
• Lipscomb (AUTOMATIC BID)
• Georgia Southern (AUTOMATIC BID)
• Fairleigh Dickinson (AUTOMATIC BID)

Also in the mix: • VCU
• Iowa State
• Penn State
• Hawaii
• Ohio
• La Salle

GROUP FIVE
This may be the most important group of all, as it turns out. Each of these teams has already clinched the regular-season championship (or top seed) in its respective conference. Any of these who do not make the NCAA field will be automatically included in the NIT, taking spots away from teams in Group Four (or more??) above.
• Pacific (Big West)
• Kent State (MAC)
• Delaware State (MEAC)
• San Diego State (Mountain West)
• Northwestern State (Southland)
• Southern (SWAC)

Joe Lunardi is the resident Bracketologist for ESPN, ESPN.com and ESPN Radio. Comments may be sent to bracketology@comcast.net.