NIT Season Tip-Off gets new format

Updated: May 11, 2006, 5:45 PM ET
Associated Press

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 Garden.

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.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press