NIT Season Tip-Off gets new format

NEW YORK -- Gonzaga and North Carolina, which both finished
in the final Top 10 last season, headline the field for next
season's newly formatted NIT Season Tip-Off.

The field for the 16-team tournament was announced Thursday, and
the 22nd annual event will be played at four "common sites"
before the semifinals and finals are again held at Madison Square

The tournament will begin in four regions: East (Charlotte,
N.C.); South (Nashville, Tenn.); Midwest (Indianapolis); and West
(Spokane, Wash.).

At Indianapolis, Indiana will play Lafayette and Notre Dame will
face Butler. At Nashville, Tennessee plays Fordham and UNC
Wilmington meets Belmont.

At Charlotte, North Carolina will play Sacred Heart and Winthrop
will take on Iona. At Spokane, Gonzaga will play Rice and Baylor
will face Colorado State.

"We've been examining this event for the past eight months and
the importance of giving our teams an opportunity to play at least
two games in regional sites showed itself as a priority early in
the process," NIT Committee chairman C.M. Newton said. "Going to
regional sites and guaranteeing teams two games levels the playing
field and just makes good basketball sense."

In the past, first- and second-round games were played at campus
sites with the winners advancing to New York. Now, there will be
two doubleheaders at each region, with the first-round losers
meeting in a consolation game.

In addition to Gonzaga, which was fifth in the final poll, and
North Carolina, which was No. 10, six other teams that played in
last season's NCAA Tournament are in the 2006 field.

Gonzaga advanced the farthest, losing in the regional semifinals
to UCLA. North Carolina, Indiana and Tennessee all reached the
second round, while Belmont, Iona, North Carolina-Wilmington and
Winthrop lost in the first round.

The Indianapolis and Nashville regionals will be Nov. 13 and 14,
while Charlotte and Spokane will be held Nov. 14 and 15.

The semifinals and finals will be Nov. 22 and 24.

At least 12 of the games will be covered by an ESPN network.

Duke beat Memphis in last year's championship game.