St. Bonaventure is steaming mad heading into the National Invitation Tournament. Snubbed by the NCAA selection committee after they were co-champions of the Atlantic 10 during the regular season, the Bonnies received a No. 1 seed in the NIT. But that was hardly what stuck out in their minds Sunday.
St. Bonaventure is steaming mad heading into the National Invitation Tournament.
Snubbed by the NCAA selection committee after they were co-champions of the Atlantic 10 during the regular season, the Bonnies received a No. 1 seed in the NIT. But that was hardly what stuck out in their minds Sunday.
"It's all politics. That's all it is," senior guard Marcus Posley said. "We've just got to make the best of the NIT."
Joining them as top seeds are Monmouth, South Carolina and Valparaiso. The first four teams left out of the NCAA Tournament automatically receive No. 1 seeds in the NIT, a practice that began last year.
San Diego State and Saint Mary's were among other schools relegated to the NIT after their NCAA hopes were dashed.
"We're the first school ever to win a conference championship and have a top-30 RPI and not go. So that's shocking," St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. "We're disappointed, but the NIT is nothing to sneeze at.
"Our goal is to show the committee that they made a mistake. You play with that chip on your shoulder. This is the second-best tournament that a team can play in. We're not embarrassed by it, we're excited about it."
With the NCAA committee favoring power-conference programs over mid-majors that also sat on the bubble, a record 15 automatic qualifiers ended up in the 32-team NIT field.
Regular-season conference champions that don't make the NCAA Tournament are guaranteed spots in the NIT, so there were only 17 at-large berths available.
"This was a very challenging selection process for a number of reasons and may be the most challenging since I've been a part of this process," Reggie Minton, chair of the NIT selection committee, said in a statement. "There were considerably more than 17 teams that were worthy of consideration."
St. Bonaventure (22-8) wasn't the only school with an NCAA beef.
Valparaiso (26-6) went 16-2 in Horizon League play, winning the regular-season title by three games, but lost to Green Bay in overtime in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
"We thought we were built for an at-large team. If you look at our numbers, our numbers were better than a lot of teams in the tournament, so we thought we'd get in," Valpo coach Bryce Drew said.
Now, the Crusaders will turn their attention to the NIT.
After the first three rounds are played on campus sites, the semifinals and championship game will take place at Madison Square Garden for the 79th year.
"I don't think Valpo has ever been a No. 1 seed before," Drew said. "It's a great opportunity for our guys to be on ESPN, to play in the NIT which historically is a tremendous tournament, and the potential to go to New York, which, we agree — the best arena in the country."
Monmouth (27-7), with its popular "bench mob" and wins over power programs Notre Dame, UCLA, Southern California and Georgetown, hosts Patriot League champion Bucknell in its NIT opener Wednesday night.
Valparaiso will open against Texas Southern; St. Bonaventure against Wagner; and South Carolina (24-8) against High Point — all at home.
South Carolina's most recent postseason game came in the 2009 NIT when it lost to Stephen Curry and Davidson.
"Our kids are down right now and it's my job to figure out a way to get them excited for an (NIT) opportunity that they haven't had since they've been here," Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said.
Other high majors in the tournament include second-seeded Florida, third-seeded Georgia, Virginia Tech and Washington, and fourth-seeded Florida State and Georgia Tech.
One notable team (and player) absent from the NIT will be LSU (19-14) and freshman sensation Ben Simmons, considered the nation's top NBA prospect. Tigers coach Johnny Jones announced his team would not participate in a postseason tournament after being left out of the NCAA field.
"They were definitely under consideration," Minton said in an interview on ESPNU. "We didn't learn until late this afternoon that they weren't going to play. So I'll just leave it there. That was their decision."
AP Sports Writers Michael Marot and Pete Iacobelli, and freelancer Lori Chase contributed to this report.