NIT

Local Basketball Teams Left Out of NCAA Tournament Head to NIT

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III, center, will take his team to the NIT. George Mason and Virginia Tech are also in the 32-team field.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson III, center, will take his team to the NIT. George Mason and Virginia Tech are also in the 32-team field. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Zach Berman and Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, March 16, 2009

Three Washington region programs will conclude their seasons in college basketball's consolation prize, the National Invitation Tournament. Georgetown, Virginia Tech and George Mason were each selected to the annual 32-team tournament designated for the top teams left out of the NCAA tournament.

On Wednesday, sixth-seeded Georgetown visits third-seeded Baylor, and second-seeded Virginia Tech will host Duquesne at Cassell Coliseum. The winners of those two games meet in the second round, which will be played from Thursday through March 23.

Seventh-seeded George Mason visits second-seeded Penn State tomorrow in State College, Pa. The winner of that game plays the winner of tomorrow's Niagara-Rhode Island game.

Baylor (20-14) lost in the Big 12 final Saturday, the same day Duquesne (21-12) lost in the Atlantic 10 championship game. Penn State was considered one of the top teams left out of the NCAA tournament.

"The quality of the NIT field is so good," Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg said. "We're just happy to still be one of the teams playing."

But all the teams had higher aspirations as recently as a month ago.

In the season's first few weeks, when everything was going Georgetown's way, the Hoyas (16-14) trounced Maryland by 27 points and six days later crushed American by 24, leaving no doubt about which team ruled college basketball in the Washington area.

The meltdown that followed was well documented. After bolting to a 10-1 start and climbing as high as No. 9 in the rankings, Georgetown dropped 10 of its last 14 regular season games, played its way out of consideration for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament and lost in the opening round of Big East tournament for only the second time in school history.

Georgetown didn't lack talent this season, with three McDonald's all-Americans on the roster. And the Hoyas notched impressive victories early, topping Memphis in November and Connecticut in December.

But those achievements meant little yesterday, when tournament officials gathered behind closed doors to extend postseason invitations.

Georgetown's most compelling argument was its grueling schedule, which at one point was deemed the nation's most difficult. But instead of making the Hoyas tougher, the punishing Big East (which produced three of the NCAA tournament's four No. 1 seeds) left the young squad tentative and erratic.

By virtually every statistical measure, Georgetown regressed by season's end, finishing conference play 10th in assists, 11th in scoring offense, 13th in turnover margin and 15th in rebounding. The Hoyas failed to place a single player among the Big East's top 25 in scoring (freshman Greg Monroe was 28th, with 12.9 points per game). And they scored fewer than 60 points in each of their last five games.


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