LSU forward Jordan Mickey (25) looks to pass as Kentucky center Dakari Johnson (44) looks on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinal round of the Southeastern Conference men's tournament, Friday, March 14, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The ritual whenever a team lands in the NIT bracket is to question whether the players trotting on to the floor are sufficiently motivated for a bid that, bluntly put, is a consolation prize. But the 32-team event is a litmus test of a program’s resolve, too: Do they care? How much do they value winning? And can tonight’s first round tilt against San Francisco foreshadow next season?