In praise of the NIT

I posted a couple of weeks ago that I became a fan of UVA basketball during Sampson’s first year, and that I thought it was pretty great that the Hoos won the NIT at the end of the season. That was 40 years ago today - March 19, 1980. Virginia beat Kevin McHale and Minnesota 58-55. Sampson was MVP with 15 points and 15 rebounds.

I was a student for the second NIT title in 1992. At that time, you could still seriously argue about whether you’d rather lose in the NCAA first round or win the NIT. Today I don’t think it’s a question, the NCAA is everything. Back then I was on the side of winning the NIT, and I enjoyed that postseason run. Doug Smith and the Hoos beat LaPhonso Ellis and Notre Dame in the final 81-76 in OT. To me the only downside was that it was Stith’s last season and he wasn’t around to build on the NIT (NCAA next 3 years with Elite 8 in 1995).

In a year when everyone is Not In Tournament, shouts to those two teams that were both a lot of fun to watch.

@DFresh11 - Anything stand out about the 1992 NIT run?


Anything that the Chokies have ever won is not a big deal. Alan Bristow led Tech team won NIT in 70’s

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Haha, good point. I think they won one in the 90s too.

Does the Hokies getting rings for a NIT second round loss count for anything??

Stoke, like you said not making The Tourney when we felt we deserved to was terrible in the beginning. We played at Nova in the first round on Friday night that coincided with Spring Break (which we never got one). The joke on the team was worst case scenario we just drive to Florida after the game. hahahah. What really stood out is Bryant Stith and Anthony Olivers leadership. Bryant already knew he was an NBA top 15 pick at that point but he was on a mission to win the NIT. Once we got to NYC it was actually a lot of fun. Also in my 4 years we were 4 and 0 against Notre Dame having played them each year. Laphonso Ellis is a great great dude. We also beat Florida in the semis who went on to win the NCAAs the next year I think.

I can tell you one thing after the finals win in NYC there was a big big party in the city with all of us. I think the older we get the more special having won the NIT is. Still have my ring too.

@stoke any chance you remember Chris Havliceks reverse lay up vs Tennessee that year in round 2? Think it was Sports Center plays of the day and everything


I definitely remember that play, but I had forgotten when it happened. I went looking for it on YouTube and found the full replay of the final against Notre Dame. Looks like it’s straight off somebody’s VCR.


Elmer Bennet went off that night