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What Happened to the NIT?

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Although it will once again be overshadowed by March Madness, this year's National Invitation Tournament gets rolling tonight. You might not realize it, but the NIT wasn't always an afterthought. Let's take a look at how the New York tourney was eclipsed by the NCAA.

Few collections of letters arouse mixed emotions in college hoops fans quite like “NIT.” Getting a bid in the annual National Invitation Tournament means a team didn’t do quite enough to make it into the field for March Madness. (That’s no fun.) On the other hand, the team gets to play more games. (That’s fun!) Of course, even winning the NIT is a mixed bag, with the thrill of ending the season with a victory undercut by rival fans derisively labeling the squad “the 69th-best team in the country.”

An NIT bid wasn’t always a consolation prize, though. The NIT is actually one year older than the NCAA Tournament – Temple routed Colorado to win the first NIT in 1938 – and it was originally an exclusive field that only invited six teams to New York.

The early NIT had a lot of advantages over its NCAA-sanctioned competition. In an era when travel wasn’t quite as pleasant as it is now, the tournament’s New York digs let the top East Coast teams play relatively close to home. Playing in New York offered greater TV exposure as well.

In both tournaments’ early days, the NCAA knew the NIT was the more attractive tournament, so the original versions of March Madness actually started after the NIT ended to avoid any head-to-head competition. This scheduling quirk made postseason redemption possible; in 1944 Utah won the NCAA Tournament after losing to Kentucky in the first round of the NIT. In 1950 the City College of New York won both the NIT and the NCAA Tournament in the same season, the only time a single team claimed both titles.

The two-tournament format gave rise to another interesting historical footnote. During World War II the NIT and NCAA champions would square off for a Red Cross–sponsored charity game after each season. The NCAA champions (Wyoming in 1943, Utah in 1944, and Oklahoma State in 1945) won all three of these tilts.

What happened to the NIT’s prestige?

The NCAA’s uncanny ability to impose its will on teams and fans was just as potent in the 1950s as it is now. Starting in the 1950s, the NCAA forced any team that won its conference to automatically accept its NCAA Tournament bid. The new rule began the slow process of draining the top teams away from the NIT.

Over the 1960s the NIT’s reputation dwindled, but it didn’t totally die. The tournament became national news in 1970 thanks to a protest by Marquette coach Al McGuire. Marquette had nabbed the 8th spot in the final Associated Press poll of the season, but the Warriors found themselves seeded in the NCAA’s Midwest Region rather than the Mideast Region. McGuire didn’t love the seeding because it meant his team would have to play in Fort Worth rather than closer to home in Dayton. To protest the decision, McGuire snubbed the NCAA by rejecting its at-large bid in favor of playing in (and winning) the NIT.

McGuire’s decision didn’t sit well with the NCAA, which reacted by instituting a new rule that forced all teams to accept a March Madness bid if they received one. (Remember that rule; it became important later.)

The real death knell for the NIT’s prestige probably came when the NCAA changed another rule in 1975. March Madness expanded to 32 teams that year, and the NCAA began allowing multiple teams from each conference to play in the Big Dance. (Previously only one team from each conference could play in the NCAAs.) These new rules further depleted the supply of quality teams that could accept NIT bids. After the NCAA expanded its field to 64 teams in 1985, the NIT-eligible leftovers became even less appetizing.

Who owns the NIT?

For most of its history, the NIT fell under the umbrella of the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association, a group consisting of five New York schools: Fordham, Wagner, Manhattan, NYU, and St. John’s. That all began to change around 10 years ago when the MIBA sued the NCAA for violating antitrust laws. According to the MIBA’s thinking, the NCAA rule that forced schools to accept March Madness bids even if they theoretically would rather have played in the NIT was a pretty clear antitrust violation.

The legal debate raged for four years until the NCAA finally squared things with the MIBA in August 2005 by buying both the preseason and postseason NITs for $56.5 million.

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Space
Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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travel
6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.

STOP 1: BANNERMAN CASTLE // BEACON, NEW YORK

59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.

STOP 2. GILLETTE CASTLE STATE PARK // EAST HADDAM, CONNECTICUT

116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.

STOP 3. BELCOURT CASTLE // NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.

STOP 4. HAMMOND CASTLE MUSEUM // GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.

STOP 5. BOLDT CASTLE // ALEXANDRIA BAY, THOUSAND ISLANDS, NEW YORK

430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.

STOP 6. FONTHILL CASTLE // DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.

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