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St. John's schedule update: NIT Season Tip-Off stuck at eight teams, hosts automatically slotted into semifinals

St. John's and the other host teams won't have to sweat qualifying games on campus.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

St. John's will be in a different NIT Season Tip-Off than was originally expected, according to a report last night from ESPN. With the tournament struggling to find 16 teams and the tip off of the season coming soon, the NCAA's event will now feature eight teams and will do away with the on-campus, winner-moves-on bracketed play-in games that made the tournament so intriguing.

No, Stony Brook won't be able to pull a Gardner-Webb. Each of the four host teams - the Georgia Bulldogs, Gonzaga Bulldogs, Minnesota Golden Gophers and St. John's Red Storm - will host one game at a campus site.

On-campus games

  • Saint Joseph's at Gonzaga
  • Western Kentucky at Minnesota
  • Stony Brook at Georgia
  • LIU at St. John's

The host teams will then meet for a bracketed tournament, while the other teams will play a double header on Thanksgiving.

Day One - November 26 Day Two - Doubleheader November 27 (Thanksgiving) Day Three - Consolation/ Championship - November 28
Georgia Bulldogs vs Gonzaga Bulldogs Long Island U vs Stony Brook Georgia/ Gonzaga loser vs SJU/ Minn loser
St. John's Red Storm vs Minnesota Golden Gophers Saint Joseph's vs Western Kentucky Georgia/ Gonzaga winner vs SJU/ Minn winner

The NCAA is finding Division II schools to fill out the schedules for teams that wanted additional games, per the report; it is unclear whether the teams that are not set in the semifinals (LIU, St. Joe's, Western Kentucky, Stony Brook) will have the opportunity to face each other on their own campuses as well, in the style of earlier years of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Why the struggles to find teams for an event that could raise the RPI of a less-regarded school that has a good shooting day? With 351 Division I teams, some issue had to get in the way, for many teams are NOT in early-season tournaments.

Is the money for a straight-up buy game better? Are the Abilene Christians and Mississippi Valley States of college basketball better off traveling to major conference foes who need an easy win on paper?

Are those teams reluctant to dedicate slots on their schedule for the consolation games, where they would travel to low-major schools while receiving (possibly) less money for their efforts - and no television exposure, either?

For St. John's, the schedule is almost set, and the this format eliminates the possibility that an inexplicable Red Storm early season loss craters the schedule, forcing the Johnnies to muddle through games against low-major opponents.

The Johnnies are guaranteed a matchup against a developing Minnesota squad coached by Richard Pitino. And win or lose, Steve Lavin's side gets a game against either the powerful Gonzaga Bulldogs or the Georgia Bulldogs, who may be struggling, but won 20 games last season just like the Red Storm.