4 Experimental Rule Changes Add Intrigue to the 2018 NIT

It’s March, folks, which means America is dethawing and basketball season is finally heating up. During this time, March Madness tends to get all the college-basketball attention. And we get it. Seeing the best of the best go toe-to-toe is kind of the reason we watch sports.

Meanwhile, there’s another tournament that’s going to be televised this March, and it goes by the derogatory-sounding name “NIT.”  Yes, it’s basically a  shameful consolation competition for most teams, but for basketball fans, it can make for some decent TV thanks to the tournament’s experimental rule changes.

What does NIT stand for?

NIT stands for National Invitational Tournament. Basically, it's a chance for the teams that didn't make Division I's famous March Madness to figure out who's the best of the second-best, aka the 32 best teams that didn't qualify for the big bracket. But look, while it might be a little shameful, it still gets ESPN coverage, and you can still fill out a bracket and tell yourself that it isn't just series of lucky guesses. Notre Dame, Baylor, USC and Saint Mary's are currently leading the pack. The tournament's early rounds will be played on the campuses of the higher-seeded teams starting on March 13, and the semifinals and finals will take place in Madison Square Garden on March 27 and 29.

NIT rule changes

So about those experimental rules: The NIT also functions as a kind of lab for the NCAA. For the last three years it's been trying out variations on the game. In the past some of these rule changes have been implemented into regular play, like reducing the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 seconds. 

Here are this year's new rules:

  • The 3-point line will be extended by 20 inches, making it 22 feet 1.75 inches, the distance used in international competition by FIBA. 
  • The free-throw lane will be widened to NBA width, taking it from 12 feet to 16 feet. 
  • Games will be played in four 10-minute quarters instead of the two 20-minute halves. Starting with the fifth foul of each quarter, teams will shoot two free throws. 
  • After an offensive rebound, the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds instead of 30 seconds.

How to watch

All games will be televised on ESPN networks and will also stream on WatchESPN. The first game of the tournament -- Wagner (8) at Baylor (1) -- will be broadcast on March 13 at 7pm EST on ESPN2. Check out the bracket below for the rest of the times and networks.

NIT bracket

Here's the official NIT bracket from the NCAA, including times and rankings. Head to that page to the official page print yours out.


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James Chrisman is a News Writer at Thrillist. Send news tips to and follow him on Twitter @james_chrisman2.