Monday, March 15, 2004
Utah State and Colorado head NIT field
By Howie Rumberg
The Associated Press
NEW YORK - Utah State and Colorado, bubble teams left out of the NCAA tournament, head the 40-team field for the NIT.
The Big East and Big 12 each had four teams chosen for the 67th NIT tournament, which starts Monday night with a matchup between Toledo (20-10) and Marquette (17-11) and concludes at Madison Square Garden on April 1.
The Atlantic 10, Southeastern Conference, Big Ten and Western Athletic Conference each had three teams invited. The Atlantic Coast Conference, Conference USA and Mid-American Conference are sending two teams apiece.
There are 13 teams with 20 or more wins.
Utah State went 25-3 overall and 17-1 in the Big West but lost to Cal St.-Northridge, a sub-.500 team, in the semifinals of the tournament. They will host Hawaii (19-11) in the first round.
"It really sends a tough message to mid-majors out there. We were nationally ranked for six weeks, won 25 games and went 17-1 in our league and the bottom line is, that you need to win your tournament," coach Stew Morrill said. "Last time we were in this position we didn't respond very well. We were devastated and didn't play worth a dang in the NIT Tournament versus Montana State (2002)."
Colorado (18-10) finished fifth in the Big 12 but was passed over in favor of Texas Tech, which finished sixth. The Buffaloes will face Oregon (15-12) on Wednesday.
Joining Colorado from the Big 12 will be Nebraska (16-12), Oklahoma (19-10), and Iowa State (17-12).
Villanova (16-16), Rutgers (16-12), West Virginia (15-13) and Notre Dame (17-12), another bubble team not chosen for the NCAA tournament despite winning seven of its final 10, will represent the Big East.
St. John's will not get a chance to defend its NIT title after completing its worst season in 97 years with a 6-21 record.
Villanova, which hosts Drexel (18-10), could face conference foe Rutgers in the quarterfinals. The Scarlet Knights play Temple (15-13) from the Atlantic 10, and Notre Dame matches up against Purdue (17-13) of the Big Ten. West Virginia plays at Kent State (22-8).
In a matchup between former assistants to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, Missouri (16-13), coached by Quinn Snyder, will face Michigan (18-11), run by Tommy Amaker.
Also from the Atlantic 10, Rhode Island (19-13) hosts Boston University (23-5), which lost in the first round of the American East tournament after going 17-1 in the conference. George Washington (18-11) faces Virginia (17-12).
In two Big 12-SEC matchups in the first round, Georgia (16-13) goes up against Iowa State and Oklahoma hosts LSU (18-10), which lost six of its last seven games.
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