Pack qualifies for NIT
March 17, 2003
NEW YORK — Western Athletic Conference tournament runner-up Nevada didn’t earn its first NCAA berth in 18 years Saturday, but the Pack did receive a consolation prize.
The Pack (18-13) received an invitation to the 40-team National Invitation Tournament.
Nevada will face one of the most successful coaches in NCAA history when it travels to Texas Tech to meet the Red Raiders (18-12) and coach Bobby Knight on Wednesday.
Knight’s streak of 16 straight trips to the tournament also ended. He made it from 1986 to 2000 at Indiana, and last year with Texas Tech. He didn’t coach in 2001.
Six Big East schools, including Villanova and its suspension-limited roster, head the 40-team field for the NIT.
Five other conferences — the Atlantic 10, Atlantic Coast, Conference USA, Big Ten and Mountain West — all had three teams chosen for the tournament, which gets under way Monday night and concludes with the championship game at Madison Square Garden on April 3.
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Villanova (15-15), which had 12 players suspended on March 9 for alleged unauthorized use of a campus phone access code, will be limited to seven players, as it was in its final regular-season game against Pittsburgh and its Big East tournament opening-round game against Georgetown. The Wildcats open at Siena (19-11), which won last year’s NCAA tournament play-in game before losing in the first round to eventual champion Maryland.
The other Big East teams selected were Boston College (18-11), Georgetown (15-14), Providence (16-13), Seton Hall (17-12) and St. John’s (16-13).
The Pirates were thought to have a good chance to make the NCAA field after going 10-3 over their last 13 games. Instead, they’ll travel to face Rhode Island (19-10) in the first round.
“That was a slap in our face, but now we have to go out and show why it was a slap in our face,” Seton Hall’s Andre Barrett said.
The Eagles, who open at Fairfield (19-11), were bitterly disappointed not to be in the NCAA tournament field of 65.
“Everyone felt a little bit uncomfortable,” coach Al Skinner said. “But we didn’t think, until they announced the last game, that we wouldn’t be up there.”
Georgetown and its star big man Mike Sweetney, will be at Tennessee (17-11) in the opening round. The Volunteers finished 9-7 in the Southeastern Conference, but were snubbed by the NCAA tournament.
“Hopefully we’ll take this as motivation going into the NIT and try to come out with a win,” senior Ron Slay, the SEC’s player of the year, said.
Temple (15-15), Georgia Tech (14-14) and Virginia (15-15) were the other teams in the field with the minimum .500 record.
The Big Ten will face off against the Atlantic Coast Conference in the opening round when the Yellow Jackets host Ohio State (17-14), which lost to Illinois in the Big Ten championship game. Minnesota (16-12) and Iowa (15-13) were also invited from the Big Ten.
Charleston (24-8) had the most wins of the teams in the field and was one of eight schools with 20 or more victories. Charleston will face another 20-win team in the first round, Kent State (21-9), which got to the round of eight in last season’s NCAA tournament. That game is at Kent State.
In addition to Temple and Rhode Island, Richmond (15-13) made it from the Atlantic 10, while Georgia Tech and Virginia were joined by fellow ACC school North Carolina (17-15). The Tar Heels will host DePaul (16-12) out of Conference USA in the first round.
UAB (19-12), which reached the conference tournament championship game, and Saint Louis (16-13) were also chosen from Conference USA, while the Mountain West will have San Diego State (15-12), UNLV (20-10) and Wyoming (20-10).
The other 20-win teams were Boston University (20-10), Illinois Chicago (21-8), Valparaiso (20-10) and Louisiana-Lafayette (20-8).
Also invited were Eastern Washington (18-12), Cal Santa Barbara (18-13), Iowa State (16-13), Drexel (19-11), Brown (17-11), Western Michigan (19-10), Hawaii (19-11), and Wichita State (18-11).
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