Obviously there is no way of know who could take UNC Asheville's spot in the "other" tournament, but it stands to reason the East Tennessee State win Monday night at US Cellular Center in Asheville could serve as the game that denies the Bulldogs a bid.
Asheville has a strong case to make the NIT. The dogs won 23 games this season, finished the regular season as co-champions of the Big South regular season, and have a RPI of 74. With those facts, the Bulldogs should be deserving of a bid in the NIT. If you look at the recent history of the tournament selection, teams with a RPI of 100 or lower should get a good look. Teams in the top 75, almost are assured an at-large NIT bid.
According to numbers crunched by nycbuckets.com, this is the average RPI of the at-large bid winners in the last five years:
Seed RPI avg. #1 57#2 62#3 68#4 73#5 77#6 72#7 99
*8-seeds are usually given to regular season champions from "lesser" conferences.
So, as you can see by the numbers, UNC Asheville's credentials should be good enough for as high as a 4-seed in the NIT. To put the Bulldogs results in perspective, they beat Winthrop - who is in the NCAA tournament, a Siena team that was one point away from the Big Dance, Furman - a regular season champion of the SoCon, and let's not forget the near-win at Ohio State.
The number of at-large NIT bids is completely dependent upon how many regular season champions win their conference tournaments. By winning the regular season, most conferences award that team with an automatic NIT bid (I think the Ivy League is the only exception). Should that team win the conference tournament, it earns a bid to the NCAA tournament and a shot at the national title, so every regular season champ that loses in the conference tournament hurts Asheville's chances. ETSU defeated UNC Greensboro Monday for the SoCon tournament tile, earning a bid to the Big Dance and relegating the Spartans (SoCon regular season champs) to the NIT.
The most automatic bids handed out by the 32-team NIT is 15, which happened last season. The first week of conference tournaments is nearly complete, and at least five automatic NIT bids will been claimed. Oakland (Horizon), Monmouth (MAAC), UNCG (SoCon), South Dakota (Summitt), and Belmont (OVC) are regular season champs who fell short in their conference tourneys. There are 15 more "lesser" conference tournaments to be decided this week.
As a Bulldogs fan, pray for the champs to win.