In the sports world, navigating COVID-19 amounts to an exercise in risk vs. reward.
Selection Sunday put that calculation to the test, and Louisville and Duke found their line. It's the NIT.
Several teams opt out of Texas NIT
After being snubbed for the NCAA tournament, the Cardinals declined their inevitable NIT invitation before it arrived. The school announced shortly after the NCAA tournament field was announced that it will not play in the NIT, where it would have landed a likely No. 1 seed.
Duke, which wasn't in the conversation for an NCAA at-large bid, will also turned down the nIT after failing to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995.
St. John's, Seton Hall and Xavier all agreed. Thanks, but no thanks to traveling to Texas during a pandemic for a tournament with minimal stakes attached.
NIT bracket revealed
None of the teams that opted out were listed when the NIT announced its bracket Sunday evening.
Louisville, Colorado State, St. Louis and Ole Miss were the first four teams out of the NCAA tournament. They will be selected as replacement NCAA tournament teams in that order if COVID-19 forces teams from the field to opt out by Tuesday. Only Louisville declined an NIT bid.
NIT will look different this year
The tournament that normally whittles down a bracket of 32 teams to crown a champion at New York's Madison Square Garden will cut it its field in half and move to North Texas, where 16 teams will compete in the Dallas suburbs of Frisco and Denton.
Sunday's decisions to not attend demonstrate the calculations teams and programs have continually assessed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since sports restarted, athletes, teams and leagues have analyzed the risks and largely decided that the collective rewards of competing outweigh the inevitable exposures to the coronavirus — as long as there are stakes attached, financial or otherwise.
The rewards of the NIT clearly aren't enough for some programs to take the risk of playing in a state that's dropped mask mandates and opened everything up as the pandemic rages on.
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