NEW YORK (AP) -Jeff Capel must have winced when he saw who Oklahoma would be playing in the quarterfinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
Davidson. Yep, those pesky kids from North Carolina who made such a dramatic run to the final eight of the NCAA tournament last March.
Talk about a tough ticket to New York.
``We're just really pleased to be here,'' Capel said Tuesday, in understated fashion.
The No. 11 Sooners survived easily the toughest portion of the bracket to reach Madison Square Garden, where they will play Alabama-Birmingham in the semifinals Wednesday night. The other semifinal pits No. 10 Purdue against Boston College, with the winners meeting Friday afternoon for the championship.
The preseason NIT has long been an early season measuring stick for some of the nation's top programs, but it's become even more of a test in recent years.
ar period.
That's essentially given promoters carte blanche to create dozens of new classics and challenges, making the college basketball schedule about as straightforward as the New York subway system. There are about two dozen in-season tournaments, like the Maui Invitational and NIT Season Tip-Off, and about three dozen other events.
While tournaments like the preseason NIT still maintain that you must win to reach the championship rounds, events like the Legends Classic and College Basketball Experience Classic determine in advance what teams advance to play for the title.
Good news for powerhouses like Syracuse and Florida, who got free passes to Kansas City for the final rounds of the CBE Classic. Not so much for Cleveland State, which played well in a loss to Washington but would have found itself playing Saint Leo regardless of whether the Horizon League school pulled off the upset.
``There are teams that a play a couple home games where teams are guaranteed to go somewhere to play championship games,'' NIT selection committee chair C.M. Newton said. ``It's a whole different atmosphere when you have to earn your way to do it.''
Just ask UAB coach Mike Davis.
The Blazers (4-0) traveled to Arizona for their opening-round games. After squeaking by Santa Clara, UAB needed a last-second free throw to beat the Wildcats in the McKale Center.
Heart-stopping? You bet.
to play really good opponents to see where we are as a basketball program,'' Davis said. ``It's really good for the program to come here.''
Veteran coach Al Skinner is guiding Boston College (3-1) through its first in-season tournament since the 2005 Las Vegas Invitational, and said he likes the idea that teams must win to advance. It hardens them for the conference season and, ultimately, the madness of March.
``The way (the NIT) is set up now is tremendous,'' Skinner said. ``I think it gives it a lot of credibility.''
So does the level of competition.
The Sooners (4-0) feature Big 12 preseason player of the year Blake Griffin, who's gone over 20 points and 20 rebounds in each of his past two games, and an eclectic mix of veteran role players and star underclassmen.
UAB is led by Robert Vaden, the Conference USA preseason player of the year, and Boston College has star guard Tyrese Rice, a first-team All-ACC pick last season.
Then there's Purdue (4-0), arguably the deepest of the four semifinal teams. Big Ten defensive player of the year Chris Kramer complements all-conference performers Robbie Hummel and E'Twaun Moore - and none of them was even voted the team's most valuable player.
That honor went to Keaton Grant, who averaged better than 11 points per game last season.
``We feel we have the kind of balance we need to be successful,'' said coach Matt Painter, who's had the Boilermakers in consecutive NCAA tournaments. ``We're preparing to make the next step in our program.''
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