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MUST WIN

How about the NIT in AC? plus more from the reporter's notebook: Must Win

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MAAC Monmouth's vs. Saint Peter's

Fans cheer during Saint Peter vs Monmouth MAAC Men’s Conference Basketball Tournament Championships game at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. Saturday March 12, 2022. Edward Lea Staff Photographer / Press of Atlantic City

News broke out of New York on Wednesday night.

The semifinals and final of the National Invitation Tournament — college basketball’s oldest postseason tournament — will not be held in Madison Square Garden the next two seasons.

ESPN, which broke the story, mentioned the NIT final four could be held in Las Vegas or Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

I’ve got a better idea.

Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall is the ideal venue, and Atlantic City is the perfect size town for the NIT. The Hall was a great setting for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament earlier this month with energetic, loud crowds. And don’t forget about the arena’s world famous pipe organ!

The NIT, which has been held in New York since 1938, was once college basketball’s most prestigious tournament. That changed in the 1970s when the NCAA Tournament began to dominate.

The NCAA now runs the NIT, inviting 32 teams who do not make the 68-team NCAA field.

The NIT is the type of event that can thrive in Atlantic City. The resort is too small to host an NCAA Tournament game, but the NIT is just right for Atlantic City in the same way the ShopRite LPGA Classic at Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway Township is perfect for a region that is too small to hold a PGA men’s golf tournament.

If the NIT came to Boardwalk Hall, it would mean more publicity for Atlantic City during a great March sports month at the arena that included the state high school individual wrestling championships and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments.

By the way, the final NIT semifinals in Madison Square Garden for the forseeable future will be played Tuesday and match St. Bonaventure against Xavier and Washington State against Texas A&M.

St. Bonaventure features 6-foot-9 Mainland Regional graduate Osun Osunniyi, whose blocked shot at the buzzer preserved St. Bonaventure’s quarterfinal win over Virginia this week. How great would it have been if the NIT was at Boardwalk Hall and Osunniyi got to play in the postseason just a few miles from where he graduated high school?

Here are a few more items as I empty the reporter’s notebook between the high school winter and spring seasons.

Bye, bye TOC: The high school basketball season ended last Sunday with the Tournament of Champions finals. Roselle Catholic beat Camden 61-58 in the boys game, and the St. John Vianney girls beat Rutgers Prep 72-52.

It was the last TOC, for now, as the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has voted to end TOCs in all sports.

Some questioned the decision last Sunday. The NJSIAA made the right call.

First, the NJSIAA surveyed all its member schools. Few, if any, supported continuing the TOC in all sports. Over the years, the event has evolved to just serving elite teams and programs and not serving the greater good.

The NJSIAA in 2022-23 will shorten many of its seasons to provide a greater break for students from the fall to winter to spring. If the TOC continued, the basketball season would have ended two weeks sooner next season than this year. Without the TOC, the season will end only a week earlier.

I would gladly trade the TOC, which no Cape-Atlantic League school has won since it began in 1989, for all schools having an extra week to play.

Alums to watch: This year is off to a great start for alumni of Press-area high schools. Clark Harris of Southern Regional went to the Super Bowl with the Cincinnati Bengals. Umar Shannon of Atlantic City is an assistant coach with the Saint Peter’s men’s basketball team, which is in the midst of one of the most stunning NCAA postseason runs in history. Bo Melton of Cedar Creek and Isiah Pacheco of Vineland are headed to the NFL Draft.

What say you Millville graduate and Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout?

What’s up with the 76ers?: The Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Toronto Raptors with James Harden and Joel Embiid and then beat the Miami Heat without them.

I don’t know what to make of the NBA regular season. Let me know when the playoffs start.

Starters key for Phillies: The Phillies will score plenty of runs but the key to their success this season will be their starting pitching. I’m worried about the health and durability of Zach Wheeler and Zach Eflin. Neither has yet to pitch in a spring training game.

Thumbs down for permanent DST: Put me down as a no for permanent daylight savings time.

I hate that it gets dark before 5 p.m. in December, but I’d rather live with than have it be dark until after 8 a.m.

The lengthening of the winter days in February and March is a sign spring/summer is on the way. Let’s not mess with that.

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