A couple of NCAA tournament snubs helped create quite a field for the NIT.
USC, Notre Dame, Baylor and Saint Mary’s grabbed No. 1 seeds for the National Invitation Tournament after their bubble burst, and Louisville, Oklahoma State, Middle Tennessee and Oregon joined them in the 32-team field.
The Trojans (23-11) finished second to Arizona in the Pac-12 Conference and lost to the Wildcats in the final of the conference tournament Saturday. USC has won six of eight games heading into Tuesday’s game against North Carolina Asheville (21-12) in its first NIT appearance since 1999.
Notre Dame (20-14) had one of the most intriguing bubble cases after preseason All-American Bonzie Colson sat out 15 games because of a broken foot. Senior guard Matt Farrell was sidelined for five games because of an ankle injury.
Colson returned late in the regular season and Notre Dame picked up two wins in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament before losing to Duke in the quarterfinals. The Irish will play Hampton (19-15) in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night.
Baylor (18-14) will face Wagner (23-9) on Tuesday night and St. Mary’s (28-5) take on Southeastern Louisiana (22-11) later that night.
Other notable matchups include Marquette (19-13) against Harvard (18-13) on Wednesday night and Louisville (20-13) hosting Northern Kentucky (22-9) on Tuesday night.
Jayhawks hope to get Azubuike back
Kansas coach Bill Self is optimistic that big man Udoka Azubuike will be available when the top-seeded Jayhawks (27-7) open the NCAA tournament Thursday against No. 16 seed Penn (24-8).
The 7-foot sophomore injured a knee ligament Tuesday, sidelining him for the ninth-ranked Jayhawks’ run to the Big 12 tournament title.
“The recovery he’s made so far has been even more than what doctors and trainers had thought it would be,” Self said. “We’re very, very optimistic.”