College Basketball Content

Red Cross benefit games during World War II pitted NCAA champion against NIT champ 

Avid college basketball fans know that the first NIT tournament, which was held in 1938 with 6 teams, got going a year earlier than the NCAA tournament. Many believed that the NIT was the stronger of the two tournaments through much of the 1940's.

The NIT consisted of 6 teams from 1938-40, 8 teams from 1941-48, and 12 teams from 1949-64. The NCAA tournament consisted of 8 teams from 1939-50, 16 teams form 1951-52, and ranged from 22 to 25 team before expanding to 32 teams in 1975. All teams participating in the NIT and NCAA tournaments from their inception through 1950 were at-large selections. Automatic qualifiers for the NCAA tournament began in 1951, while the NIT began guaranteeing automatic qualifiers just a few years ago, when the NCAA started oversight of the tournament.

So, both tournaments consisted of 8 teams through most of the 1940's, and participants were selected at-large for both tournaments. The NIT held the entire tournament in Madison Square Garden back then, and 6 of the NCAA’s championship games were held in the Garden during the 1940's as well. (The Final Four, as we now know it, did not get teams together to play in the same arena until 1952.)

Does the idea that the NIT was the better tournament during the 1940's hold water? With the U.S. deeply involved in World War II, the Red Cross held a game between the NCAA and NIT champions in Madison Square Garden to decide the “World Championship” in 1943, 1944, and 1945, with the proceeds to benefit the Red Cross.

In each case, the NCAA champion defeated the NIT champ, as shown below.

Red Cross Benefit Game Results
Madison Square Garden, New York

1943 Wyoming 52, St. John’s 47, OT
1944 Utah 43, St. John’s 36
1945 Oklahoma A&M (Oklahoma State) 52, DePaul 44

That’s not the entire story, however.

In 1944, Utah was initially asked to play in the NCAA tournament, but instead accepted an invitation to play in the NIT. It lost in the first round to Kentucky, and then was asked to replace Arkansas in the NCAA field when two Razorback players were injured, and a team assistant was killed, when hit by a car while changing a tire. (While it sounds bizarre today, from 1940 through 1952, 14 teams played in both tournaments, but that’s a story for another day.) St. John’s beat Kentucky in the NIT semifinals and DePaul in the championship game, while Utah beat Missouri, Iowa State, and Dartmouth in overtime for the NCAA championship.

Interestingly, Wyoming could not defend its NCAA title in 1944 because the war effort depleted its squad to the point that it did not field a team that season. That was not uncommon for some colleges during the war years.


Bracket Bits from The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report

Tidbits from recent issues of The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report

From The RPI Report:  A total of 6 teams had 30 or more wins against Division I opponents in the regular season this year, with 15 having from 25 to 29 wins, and 19 having from 22 to 25 wins. One team had a losing record this year (Hampton, 16-17), the 24th team to play in the tournament with a sub-.500 record. . . . 17 of 32 automatic qualifying teams (53%) were repeaters from last season, and 22 of 36 at-large selections (61%) were in the field last season. Overall, 39 of 68 teams (57%) in this years field made the tournament in 2014. . . . Arkansas had the longest wait of the at-large teams, with their last appearance in 2008. Two newcomers, UC Irvine and Buffalo are making their first appearances, both as automatic qualifiers. Northeastern’s last appearance before this season was in 1991, the longest wait besides the two newcomers of any automatic qualifier. . . . Exactly half of the automatic qualifiers were ranked below No. 60 in the RPI. That is right in line with historical data, as 50.3% of all automatic qualifiers since 1991 have been ranked below (worse than) this benchmark.

From The Women's RPI Report: You likely remember that the women’s committee announced their top 20 mock seed list on February 12. How did their mock seed list compare to the real bracket released on March 16? Their top 4 seeds were UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame, and Tennessee in February, while the real bracket had the first 3 but picked Maryland rather than Tennessee, a No. 2 seed. Overall, the mock bracket had 17 of 20 teams in the top 5 seed lines of the real bracket, missing Texas, Mississippi State, and Ohio State, whereas the mock bracket had George Washington, Texas A&M, and Washington, which all received No. 6 seeds. So, the three misses were off by only one seed each.

Teams with No. 1 schedule strength rankings can usually look forward to NCAA tournament invitation

Kansas had No. 1 overall and non-conference schedule strength rank at end of regular season, went 1-1 in NCAA tournament

Kansas won honors for both the best overall and non-conference schedule strength at the end of the 2014 regular season. In fact, the Jayhawks had the second-best overall regular-season schedule strength since CBN began tracking the RPI in 1991. Kansas' .6678 schedule strength for 2014 is second only to Maryland's .6679 in 1998.  The Jayhawks also had the best opponents' won-lost record of 689-369 (.6512) in the regular season, and the best RPI rank of opponents played, which is an alternate way of determining schedule strength. Kansas received a No. 2 seed and eventually lost to Stanford in the third round by a score of 60-57. Since 1991, 19 of the 24 teams holding the No. 1 schedule strength rank at the end of the regular season were in the NCAA tournament, and 20 of those 24 teams were in post-season play. However, having the No. 1 schedule strength does not guarantee success in the NCAA tournament. In six of the last fourteen seasons, the team holding top schedule strength honors has lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In the ten years prior to that, no teams with the No. 1 schedule strength that made the NCAA tournament lost in the first round, although three of those teams did not make the NCAA tournament. The best that a team has done in the NCAA tournament that had the best regular-season schedule strength was North Carolina in 1997, losing in the national semifinals to eventual national champion Arizona. Notre Dame had the best regular-season schedule strength in 1992 with a 14-14 record and finished second in the NIT. List

Several conferences use CBN's RPI data to break tournament seeding ties

Administrators have complete confidence in CBN's RPI

Nearly all conference offices subscribe to both The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report because they know they can count on the most accurate weighted RPI for the men and the women anywhere this side of the NCAA tournament selection committees. CBN first made the Adjusted RPI ratings (which are no longer used for either the men nor the women) available to The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report subscribers during the 1998-99 season. The NCAA used the Adjusted RPI ratings from the 1993-94 through the 2003-04 season for the men and have used the weighted RPI since the 2004-05 season, while the women used the Adjusted RPI through the 2010-11 season and began using the weighted RPI during the 2011-12 season. The weighted RPI gives more credit to teams that schedule tough opponents and that beat good teams at home and on the road. Story

AP carried the Men's RPI Ratings for 16th consecutive year during the 2009-10 season

2009-10 was the 13th season that AP distributed the Women's RPI Ratings

During the 2009-10 season, the Associated Press (AP) carried the CBN's RPI for both men's and women's college basketball, for the 16th consecutive year, for at least part of the season. In addition, 2009-10 was the 13th consecutive season that the AP distributed the women's RPI for at least part of the season. Story