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NIT offers some a little consolation

March 12, 2007|From the Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — West Virginia, Clemson, Air Force and Mississippi State were seeded No. 1 Sunday night in the revamped National Invitation Tournament, a postseason competition that was little more than a consolation prize for some of the teams that were snubbed by the NCAA.

Once the NCAA picked the 65-team field for its tournament, the NIT had the pick of the leftovers, which included the four No. 1s and others such as Syracuse, Drexel, Kansas State and Washington.

For the second straight year, all Division I conference regular-season champions who lost in their conference tournaments and weren't picked for the NCAA tournament were guaranteed NIT bids, but the tourney field was reduced from 40 teams to 32.

"No one mistakes this tournament for the NCAA championship," NIT selection committee Chairman C.M. Newton said. "But the NIT historically has been a very strong advocate for postseason basketball."

West Virginia (22-9), which will play host to Delaware State in an NIT East Region opener on Tuesday night, tied Villanova and DePaul for seventh in the Big East. Villanova made the NCAA tournament, but West Virginia and DePaul had to settle for the NIT. Syracuse, which was sixth in the Big East, also was picked by the NIT.

"I have no way of understanding why we're not in the [NCAA] tournament," Orange Coach Jim Boeheim said. "You look at the numbers and it's hard to believe. But it's done. There's no use in talking about it.... I'm very disappointed."

The first, second and quarterfinal rounds will be played at campus sites. The final four will play in Madison Square Garden in New York on March 27 and 29.

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