By Zach Baru
UMass may not be in the big dance, but the NIT is treating UMass just fine, as it provides a fourth game televised on an ESPN network Tuesday night. The NIT semifinal against Stanford will be prime-time on ESPN2, giving UMass another great opportunity to showcase their program to a national audience.
While other teams’ NIT games have been broadcasted only on ESPNU or ESPN3, UMass has been fortunate enough to receive two ESPN telecasts, and two on ESPN2. This is not only excellent exposure for the program, but it greatly benefits the UMass basketball brand, which has been seeking national attention for quite some time.
The Tuesday night game at Madison Square Garden presents a great stage for UMass to make up for missing out on the NCAA tournament yet again this year, as they have since 1998. While the NIT does not attract the television ratings of the NCAA, UMass has nothing to be ashamed of. A Tuesday night game on ESPN2 at 7:00 will bring in halfway decent ratings no matter what the game is, and UMass is very fortunate to get the call.
Win or lose, this season is sure to be looked at as a success on and off the court. Between their 25 wins, postseason success, and multiple 6,000-plus home attendances, this season has been very kind to the Minutemen. Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden will likely be full of UMass students and fans making the trip down to New York. A bus trip has already been organized, and MSG should be more like a home-court to UMass when they play Stanford.
You can wish for an NCAA tournament appearance all you want. But the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden is fine by me. The whole country will have a chance to see UMass basketball try to reach their second NIT championship in four years, providing even more national exposure for our Minutemen.