Maryland, Michigan, Cincy, Louisville head NIT bids

Updated: March 13, 2006, 12:52 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

INDIANAPOLIS -- Cincinnati, Maryland, Michigan and Louisville were seeded No. 1 Sunday in the revamped National Invitation Tournament.

Also among the 40 teams selected for the NIT were six that won regular-season championships but lost in their conference tournaments and weren't picked for the NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA bought the rights to the NIT in August as part of a settlement ending the organizations' four-year legal battle. Among the changes in the selection criteria, all Division I conference regular-season champions who weren't in the NCAA's field of 65 were guaranteed NIT bids.

The opening round of eight games will begin at campus sites Tuesday.

It's the second straight year Maryland missed the NCAA and went instead to the NIT. The Terrapins (19-12) reached the semifinals of the tournament last year before losing to eventual champion South Carolina.

Maryland coach Gary Williams was miffed to see Wisconsin (19-11) and Arizona (19-12) make it.

"Interesting. What makes them better than us? I don't know," Williams said. "For whatever reason, our 19-12 wasn't as good as Arizona's record or Wisconsin's record."

Instead, the Terrapins, who lost in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament to Boston College, will play a first-round game Saturday against the winner of Tuesday's game between Metro Atlantic regular-season winner Manhattan and Northeast Conference winner Fairleigh Dickinson.

Michigan (18-10), which lost in the first round of the Big Ten tournament to Minnesota, will play either UTEP or Lipscomb. Minnesota also was invited to the NIT and will play Wake Forest on Wednesday.

The Wolverines started the season with hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998, going 16-3 before collapsing with seven losses in their last nine games.

"We've let a lot of people down -- I've let a lot of people down," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said after the Wolverines were left out for the 8th year in a row Sunday.

"We didn't do what we should have," Michigan guard Daniel Horton said after watching the NCAA selection show with his teammates and coaches. "We put our future in the hands of someone else."

Louisville (18-12) will play in the first round Friday against the winner of Tuesday's opening-round game between Northern Arizona and Delaware State. Northern Arizona was the regular-season champion in the Big Sky conference and Delaware State was the Mid-Eastern Athletic champion, but both lost in their conference tournaments.

Cincinnati (19-12), which lost in the first round of the Big East tournament to Syracuse, will play Georgia Southern or Charlotte.

Bearcats coach Andy Kennedy called the NCAA snub a disappointment and "an unfit ending for these kids."

Eight Big East teams received NCAA bids, setting a record.

"For us to be completely off the board is shocking," Kennedy said. "It's hard for me to understand, so its certainly hard for me to articulate to our kids what just happened."

The other regular-season conference champion in the NIT is Western Kentucky of the Sun Belt, which will play South Carolina on Friday.

The Missouri Valley Conference, which landed a record four teams in the NCAA Tournament, will send two more to the NIT: Missouri State and Creighton. Both got No. 2 seeds.

Missouri State will play Stanford or Virginia; Creighton will play the Temple-Akron winner.

Creighton also struggled down the stretch, losing four of its last six games.

"There will be no whining or complaining from us," Bluejays coach Dana Altman said.

The other No. 2 seeds are Florida State, which is in the same bracket with Cincinnati and will play the Miami (Ohio)-Butler winner; and Saint Joseph's, which is in Maryland's bracket and will play Penn State or Rutgers.

Another NIT pick that hoped to get an NCAA bid was Hofstra, which lost to North Carolina-Wilmington in the Colonial Athletic final and will open against Nebraska as a No. 3 seed.

Hofstra won 14 of its last 16 games and beat NCAA participant George Mason twice, including in the conference semifinals.

"I need someone to explain this process to me," Hofstra coach Tom Pecora said. "I thought we did enough to get our RPI to the right level [for the NCAA], we reached the conference championship game. Obviously, how you finish the season is not that important."

The other No. 3 seeds are Houston, South Carolina and the University of Miami.

The NIT semifinals and final will be in Madison Square Garden in New York on March 28 and March 30.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report

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