March Madness: Postseason tournament changes incoming in 2024

Multiview streaming is now available for the NCAA Tournament. Let the Madness begin! Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports
Multiview streaming is now available for the NCAA Tournament. Let the Madness begin! Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports /

One of the best times on the annual sports calendar is the six-week stretch from the beginning of March through the first two weeks of April. Major League Baseball begins its season, the NBA and NHL are both in the “playoff push” portion of the schedule, the Masters Tournament takes place in Augusta, college baseball is in the thick of conference play, and March Madness has college basketball fans glued to the television.

In a college athletics world that is constantly changing due to NIL and the transfer portal, more change is on the horizon. Starting in 2024, the March Madness portion of the calendar will look a bit different.

The second-biggest college basketball tournament of March is the NIT. Fans used to care about the NIT as they could see intriguing matchups between big-time programs who were just off of NCAA Tournament pace for the season. However, in recent years, changes to the NIT watered down the interest level as more and more mid-major programs were included.

That appears set to change moving forward. According to an announcement from the NCAA and the NIT Board, the second-biggest postseason college basketball tournament will look to add bigger programs to the field this season.

Beginning this season, regular season conference champions will not be guaranteed a spot in the NIT field. This marks a departure from a rule that was implemented not too long ago. This won’t affect the major conferences as any regular season champion who doesn’t win the conference tournament surely will be in the NCAA Tournament field as an at-large bid.

The driving force behind this rule change is, as usual, money. As much as fans like to claim they love to watch mid-major programs win in March and April, the television ratings prove that they don’t actually watch the games involving the small programs. The

Because of that, more power conference programs will play in the NIT. Instead of the automatic qualifiers coming primarily from the mid-majors, the two highest non-NCAA Tournament teams from each conference in the NET rankings will receive automatic invitations to the NIT. This will guarantee the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC at least two teams each in the NIT.

March Madness could just become a time of smaller programs being mad in March as the move is a bit unfair to mid-major programs. For example, a 25-6 regular season champion from the Southern Conference could get left out of both the NCAA Tournament and the NIT if they don’t also win the SoCon Tournament.

However, more fans are going to tune in to watch programs with larger fan bases, so more money and exposure will come to college basketball. The NIT could become a similar product to what it used to be, and ESPN (the company that funds much of college athletics with television/media deals) will rake in more money.

In addition to the most obvious change, the NIT will experiment with NBA and FIBA rules. The lane will be NBA width (moving from 12 feet wide to 16 feet wide, and media timeouts will now occur at the first play stoppage after the 17-minute, 14-minute, 8-minute, and 4-minute marks of the second half.

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