ESPN today has a poll up on their front page, much like they do every day, although this time it's particularly interesting. The question is "would you rather your favorite team (a) lose in one of the first 4 NCAA tourney games or (b) make a deep run in the NIT. I, being a Northwestern fan, instantly thought that the results would clearly be "lose in the first 4" by a mile. When I submitted my vote, however, I was surprised to find that the current split was only about 55 - 45 in favor of (a). So I thought good and hard about which I'd rather and came to this conclusion:
I'd rather NU make a run in the NIT.
I'm sure that the typical NU fan could really make a good case either way (regardless of whether he actually subscribes to his point or not; we're all masters of debate here), but I think there's a clear case for an NIT run that would be very hard to dismiss and that has to do with one fact: the NCAA tournament has 64 teams. If you look at any bracket, there are 64 openings with 4 of them taken by something along the lines of "play in winner" or "UAB/Clemson" or what have you. If you ask any fan how many teams are in the NCAA tourney, they'd likely say something that includes the words "technically" and "sixty-eight" grouped right next to each other. The point is, it seems to me that losing one of the play-ins means you didn't really make the tournament.
For NU, who hasn't had any postseason success, I'd much rather they start with the NIT and have something to hang their collective hat on than saying "well we were almost in the field of 64, but we lost in the play-in." I want NU to be able to say "look we were successful in the post season" and point to something valid. The fact is until we're playing against some team with a different seed number in the NCAAs, we haven't really made the tournament, and losing in the opening salvo of games won't change the perception of NU basketball. People will still be able to say that our team hasn't done anything yet, so I'd rather take the baby steps with the NIT and then work up to actually making the tournament that matters.
So yeah, I'm curious as to what everyone else with purple-tinted glasses thinks, so here's that poll, again.