Opposing fans have often ridiculed the National Invitational Tournament appearances banner at Thompson-Boling Arena over the years.
As the tournament’s popularity and importance has waned over the decades with the expansion of the NCAA Tournament, rival fans and media alike poked fun at a banner celebrating not making the NCAA Tournament.
However, the banner is no longer at Thompson-Boling Arena, RTI learned over the weekend. The spot where the banner hung — in the corner across from the Tennessee bench — is no longer occupied, but could have a replacement in the next year.
The men’s basketball NCAA Tournament banner that sat beside the NIT banner is now full as Rick Barnes’ program has made the last four NCAA Tournaments. That gives the Tennessee basketball program 24 total NCAA Tournament appearances and the need for a new banner.
While Tennessee hasn’t announced any plans to add a second NCAA Tournament appearances banner, logic indicates that a second banner will go up in place of the NIT banner once the Vols make their 25th NCAA Tournament appearance.
The removal of the NIT banner and addition of the 2022 tournament berth to the NCAA Tournament appearances banner aren’t the only changes the Vols have made to the banners since the end of the season.
Tennessee has already updated its SEC Tournament Championship banner to include the program’s first conference tournament title in 43 years.
Tennessee has significantly more NCAA Tournament appearances than NIT appearances, making it to the National Invitational Tournament 13 times including trips to the semifinals in 1969 and 1985. The NIT lost even more of its luster earlier this year, announcing the semifinals and finals will no longer be played at Madison Square Garden.
Barnes’ eighth Tennessee team has a fantastic chance to earn the program’s 25th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Vols will be back in the top 25 next season after Josiah-Jordan James’ announced plans to return for his senior season and five-star small forward Julian Phillips committed to Tennessee over Auburn.