A year ago, the Washington men’s basketball team greeted a National Invitation Tournament berth with tepid enthusiasm after winning the Pac-12 regular-season title and being passed over by the NCAA tournament.
Having blown any chance at the Big Dance this year, the Huskies were thrilled Sunday night to receive one of the 32 spots in the NIT.
“I’m just excited to be able to keep playing,” senior co-captain Scott Suggs said. “I wish things would have turned out differently in the Pac-12 tournament, but nonetheless we’re able to keep playing.
“We have another chance to win something.”
Washington (18-15) received the No. 6 seed and will travel to Provo, Utah to face No. 3 BYU (21-11) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Marriott Center on ESPN.
If the Huskies win, they advance to play the winner of the game between No. 2 Tennessee and No. 7 Mercer.
“We live to play another day,” senior co-captain Abdul Gaddy said. “We’re just going to have to go out there and play hard and continue to keep on going.”
The first three rounds of the NIT are held at campus sites. In most cases, the higher seed is the host.
The semifinals and finals are held in New York on April 2-4. ESPN televises every game on its networks.
Washington is making its seventh trip to the NIT. Last year, the Huskies made their most successful run in the tournament.
They drew a No. 1 seed and beat Texas-Arlington, Northwestern and Oregon at home. In the semifinals, the Huskies lost 68-67 in overtime to No. 6 seed Minnesota. “Last year our guys weren’t ready to play the first game,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “We didn’t play very well. I don’t think we were prepared to play in the NIT in terms of our minds. It was tough for us to overcome that we weren’t in the NCAA tournament after winning our league.
“This year, knowing who are opponent is, BYU, I think our guys will embrace it a lot sooner.”
BYU finished third in the West Coast Conference behind Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s at 10-6. The Cougars are led by 6-foot-5 guard Tyler Haws, who averages 20.9 points, and 6-9 senior forward Brandon Davies, who averages 17.6 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Romar, who described BYU as an up-tempo team (the Cougars average 77 points), said he is impressed by BYU’s fan support and anticipated a crowd of 13,000 to 14,000 on Tuesday.
“They don’t lose very often there,” he said.
The trip to Utah is a return home for junior guard C.J. Wilcox, who grew up in nearby Pleasant Grove, about 25 minutes away.
“I actually called it two days ago that we would be playing at their place, so I wasn’t too shocked,” Wilcox said. “I was shocked that it actually happened, but I was ready for it, I guess.”
There were few surprises during Sunday’s NIT selection show.
The No. 1 seeds are Kentucky, Alabama, Virginia and Southern Mississippi, which is in Washington’s quarter of the bracket. Other favorites are No. 2 seeds Tennessee and Maryland.
“You start talking about a Kentucky and a Tennessee and Virginia and the stars in this tournament,” Romar said. “There are some quality teams, there’s no doubt.”
—Arizona State is a No. 3 seed in the NIT and will host Detroit, a No. 6 seed, on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Stanford, the defending NIT champion, is a No. 4 seed and will host fifth-seeded Stephen F. Austin at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
—The Pac-12 Conference fined Arizona coach Sean Miller $25,000 on Sunday for his actions following the 18th-ranked Wildcats’ loss to UCLA in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Miller was fined for confronting a game official on the floor and for acting inappropriately toward a staff member in the hallway.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.