UK AD says NIT bid would be accepted

Updated: March 7, 2009, 6:45 PM ET
By Dana O'Neil | ESPN.com

GAINESVILLE, Fla -- The three letters Kentucky fans would rather spit than say may soon be coming to fruition. And if the Wildcats' postseason disintegrates to the NIT -- a seemingly likely scenario after UK's 60-53 loss to Florida on Saturday -- Kentucky has told the NIT it would accept the invitation.

"We're still planning on making the NCAA tournament but if we don't, we told them on Friday we would play," athletic director Mitch Barnhart said.

Barnhart admitted he and the coaching staff thought hard about the decision. Kentucky has made the NCAA Tournament every year since 1992 and its 17 straight NCAA appearances is the third-longest active streak, behind only Arizona (24) and Kansas (19).

UK hasn't played in the NIT since 1979. At this point, with a four-game losing streak and an RPI in the 70s, it appears that is where the Wildcats are headed unless they can win the SEC tournament title in Tampa.

Considering the level of disappointment not making the NCAA tourney would bring, Barnhart wavered.

"We certainly don't want to be perceived as arrogant, but we also don't want to lower the standards of what is expected at Kentucky," Barnhart said.

If Kentucky ends up in the NIT and hosts a game, the first round will have to be played in Memorial Coliseum because of high school state playoffs scheduled for Rupp Arena.

Dana O'Neil covers college basketball for ESPN.com.

Dana O'Neil | email

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