2012 NIT Schedule And Bracket: Northwestern Begins Their March To The Championship

The 2012 NIT Tournament is set to begin on Tuesday night at various home sites across the country, and one of the highlighted matchups in Region 1 is a game between the No. 4 Northwestern Wildcats and No. 5 Akron Zips. For Northwestern, the challenge will be to stay focused after missing out on the 2012 NCAA Tournament for the umpteenth time (aka- forever). Then again, they are primed to do very well in the NIT if they managed to channel their frustration into inspired play.

SB Nation's Northwestern Blog, Sippin' On Purple broke down the field in the NIT, and thinks the Wildcats have a good chance to win the whole thing:

Let's look at Kenpom rankings for this region:

  1. Washington: 67
  2. Dayton: 64
  3. Oregon: 62
  4. Northwestern: 58
  5. Akron: 79
  6. LSU: 98
  7. Iowa: 87
  8. Texas-Arlington: 110

Yes, by what I consider the most accurate and valuable rankings system available in college hoops, Northwestern is the best team in its region, despite being a four-seed. Therefore, those rankings would select Northwestern as the likely winner in neutral court games. Sadly, these won't be neutral court games. Barring upsets, Northwestern will only get one home-court game, and therefore will have to win a game it won't be favored in by those rankings in either Washington, Oregon, or Dayton. (The Flyers open on the road so as not to conflict with the First Four, but I assume that will be over with by the time Northwestern would meet them in a hypothetical tournament quarterfinal.) The Wildcats also have a better Kenpom ranking than a second one-seed - Tennessee - and have beaten a third - Seton Hall - in a neutral site game. There's a lot of evenly matched teams in this tournament, and Northwestern is just as good as pretty much any of them.

Here's the full schedule of 2012 NIT Tournament first round games for Tuesday. All times are Central, and home teams host all games with the exception of Dayton.

Region 1

No. 2 Dayton Flyers at No. 7 Iowa Hawkeyes, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)

No. 4 Northwestern Wildcats vs. No. 5 Akron Zips, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

No. 3 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 6 LSU Tigers, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

No. 1 Washington Huskies vs. No. 8 Texas-Arlington Mavericks, 9:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

Region 2

No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers vs. No. 8 Savannah St. Tigers, 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

No. 4 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders vs. No. 5 Marshall Thundering Herd, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN3)

Region 3

No. 4 Mississippi St. Bulldogs vs. No. 5 UMass Minutemen, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

No. 1 Seton Hall Pirates vs. No. 8 Stony Brook Seawolves, 6:15 p.m. (ESPN3)

Region 4

No. 3 Stanford Cardinal vs. No. 6 Cleveland St. Vikings, 10:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Brackets on the brain? Us too! Play Yahoo! Tourney Pick'em and be a part of the craziest month of college basketball. It is fun, easy, and free. The stakes are higher this year: compete for a chance to win $5 million in the Perfect Bracket and $10,000 in the BestBracket Sweepstakes.

For updates, stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago. For constant coverage of March Madness, stay with SB Nation's NCAA basketball news hub. And for more on Northwestern, visit Sippin' On Purple.

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