Last week, my alma mater, the George Washington University, won the men’s basketball National Invitational Tournament. Most of America’s sports fans reacted with a hearty yawn – if they noticed at all.
For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of college basketball, the NIT is not the same as the NCAA tournament for which most people fill out brackets each March. The NIT is the tournament where teams not good enough to make the NCAA go; a consolation bracket if you will.
As a result, most teams in the NIT are disappointed to be there, and GW was no exception. Before the season, they appeared to have “NCAA talent,” and they were projected to be part of the NCAA field for much of the season. Unfortunately, they played themselves out of a bid with a poor showing during conference play.
Thankfully, they were able to move past that disappointment and dedicate themselves to winning the tournament. As a result, they played what was probably their best basketball of the season. (Of course, this improved play was a source of some frustration too. It made everyone wonder why they didn’t play this well all season.)
One benefit of them playing in the NIT is that they played two of the games at home, and I was able to attend. For the opening contest against Hofstra, I actually had courtside seats, and it was the first time I had ever been that close to the action.
After winning their first three games, GW advanced to the “final four” which was played at Madison Square Garden. Once there, they proceeded to destroy both San Diego State and Valparaiso. GW’s defense – not a strong suit for most of the season – was suddenly stifling. Neither of their opponents could get much going offensively, and GW won both games surprisingly easily.
I was a little unsure how happy I should be about this championship. I mean, it clearly wasn’t the same as making it to the NCAA Final Four, but this wasn’t completely meaningless either. Should I buy the commemorative T-shirt, or would that just leave me open to mockery?
I realized that it would be foolish not to celebrate the title. Based on my history as a sports fan, it’s not like I can just turn my nose up at a championship, even if it isn’t the one I’d prefer.
Plus, it’s not like GW is a powerhouse program with a grand basketball tradition. The school has one win in the NCAA tournament since 1993, and that came ten years ago. For a school like North Carolina or Kentucky, an NIT title might be an embarrassment. For GW, this qualifies as a genuine highlight..
So I’m going to buy my Championship shirt and I’m going to wear it with pride. Hail to the Buff! Champions of the NIT!
This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was C and the topic was “Champions”