What is the NIT Tournament?

Discover the history, format, benefits, and success stories of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), a premier postseason event for college basketball teams.


The National Invitation Tournament (NIT) is a men’s college basketball tournament held annually in the United States. It is considered one of the premier postseason events for teams that did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament.


The NIT was founded in 1938 by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association, with the inaugural tournament featuring six teams. Over the years, the tournament has grown in popularity and prestige, attracting top-tier programs from across the country.


The NIT typically consists of a 32-team field, with automatic bids going to regular-season conference champions who did not receive an NCAA Tournament bid. The remaining slots are filled by at-large selections based on a team’s performance throughout the season.


Participating in the NIT provides teams with an opportunity to extend their season, gain valuable postseason experience, and showcase their talents on a national stage. For many programs, a successful NIT run can serve as a springboard for future success.

Success Stories

One notable success story is the 2018 Penn State Nittany Lions, who won the NIT championship and parlayed that success into an NCAA Tournament berth the following year. Other programs, such as the 2011 Wichita State Shockers and the 2003 Syracuse Orange, have used NIT success as a stepping stone to future NCAA Tournament success.


  • Since 2000, teams that have won the NIT championship have gone on to make the NCAA Tournament the following season 70% of the time.
  • The 2019 NIT championship game between the Texas Longhorns and the Lipscomb Bisons drew over 13,000 fans, demonstrating the tournament’s widespread appeal.

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