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In college basketball (in the US), the team that wins the NIT (National Invitation Tournement) can legitmately call themselves the 65-th best team in the nation.

My alma mater, UCLA, won in 1985. Yay!

A list of the 65-th best teams in men's college basketball is:

(Before 1985, the NCAA tournement had less than a 64-team field, so the previous NIT winners were better than the 65-th best team in the nation.)

For future reference, the other past NIT champions are:

It should be noted that in its early years, the NIT was the elite postseason college basketball tournament, not the NCAA.

It was only in the '50s that the NCAA tournament became dominant, with the NIT becoming the secondary tournament of teams not good enough to make it to the NCAAs.

Teams were actually allowed to play in both the NCAA and NIT tournaments in the early years, as they were not concurrent. This allowed CCNY (City College of New York) to become the only team in history to win both tournaments in the same year in 1950.

The NIT winner before 1975 could very legitimately claim to be the second-best team in the nation. Even after the NCAA required teams to choose one tournament or the other, until 1975 only the champion of each individual conference was allowed an invitation to the NCAA tournament -- no other team from that conference could go to the NCAAs.

The game that changed all this was the ACC tournament championship game on 9 March 1974. In what many from the area still call "the greatest game ever played", N.C. State beat Maryland 103-100 in overtime at the Greensboro Coliseum for the right to advance to the NCAA tournament. (As the story has it, legendary Maryland coach Lefty Driesell boarded the N.C. State team bus after the game and told the players, "I'm just as proud of you as I would be of my own kids. Now all I want you boys to do is go out there and win the national championship.")

N.C. State did go on to win the NCAA championship that year. Maryland, on the other hand, was so heartbroken by their loss that they declined the NIT invitation, though they were easily one of the top three or four teams in the nation (finishing #4 in the final AP poll). The NCAA field expanded in 1975 to 32 teams, allowing extra teams from power conferences like the ACC to advance, and has since grown larger: first to 48, then 64, and now 65 teams.

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