Oakland earns a 7-seed in the NIT; Potential major rule changes coming to college basketball

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NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Oakland
Dec 23, 2016; Rochester, MI, USA; Oakland Golden Grizzlies head coach Greg Kampe during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Athletics Center O'rena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It seemed like that given the way they were playing down the stretch, Oakland was on a mission to get back to the NCAA Tournament. The Grizzlies finished the regular season a nine-game winning streak, earning the top seed in the Horizon League Tournament. Unfortunately, they were bounced in their first game against Youngstown State on a lay-in at the buzzer.

Being in a one-bid mid-major league, that effectively ended their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. But it doesn’t mean their season was over. Shortly after the NCAA Tournament field was revealed, the NIT brackets were laid out and there was Oakland, slotted as a 7-seed.

Oakland was one of five teams who earned no worse than an automatic bid into the NIT because they were regular season champions in their conference (Akron, Belmont, Monmouth, South Dakota).

The Grizzlies (24-8) will be hitting the road for their first-round match-up against No. 2 seed Clemson (17-15, 6-12 ACC). The Tigers had to maneuver through a gauntlet ACC this year, and yet with a lackluster overall record, some ‘experts’ still had them on the fringes of the bubble.

It’s been a tale of two seasons for Clemson. They started the year 11-2, then followed it up with losses in 12 of their next 15 games once conference play came around. Their most notable wins are a road win at South Carolina and a season sweep of Wake Forest, two teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Oakland will be one of 32 teams vying for that NIT crown. All of the action takes place on Tuesday, March 14 and runs all the way to the championship game at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, March 30. All the games can be seen on the ESPN family of networks during that time. For a complete look at the bracket, click here.

RULE CHANGES

There is going to be some heightened emphasis to the NIT this year. The NCAA will be enforcing rule changes throughout the duration of the tournament in an effort to “collect more data” and experiment with the pace of games.

All of the games in the tournament will be part of an experiment that may lead to college basketball transitioning to quarters instead of halves. The games played will still all be two 20-minute halves but it will be of the mindset of quarters. How so? It ultimately deals with the “accumulation of team fouls.”

But here’s the catch: the mindset of quarters comes into play. When a half reaches the 10-minute mark, the foul numbers for each team will reset back to zero. So any team that racked up 5+ fouls in the first 10 minutes will be given a clean slate for the latter 10 minutes of the half.

“The committee believes resetting the team fouls to zero at the 9:59 mark of each half may have the same effect as resetting the team fouls to zero at the end of each quarter, while at the same time allowing for men’s college basketball to retain the unique format of two 20-minute halves,” the NCAA statement said.

The NCAA is hoping it can improve the product and pace of college basketball while also preserving something it can call its own.

The game will still be timed the same, but fouls managed differently. A format of 31 games should be sufficient data to see if the NCAA should pursue quarters for the future as opposed to halves. This will also effectively get rid of the 1-and-1 free throw bonus, as it goes directly to two free throws.

There is also one additional minor rule change they will be enforcing for the NIT. Every time the ball is inbounded by the offensive team in the front court, the shot clock will be reset to 20 seconds instead of 30, when necessary.