NIT field: No respect for St. Mary’s

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 16, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) ó Passed over by the NCAA tournament selection committee, Saint Mary’s didn’t even manage a top seed in the NIT.
The Gaels and playmaking guard Patrick Mills fell to the second line Sunday for the 32-team tournament, placed in the same bracket with San Diego State.
Joining the Aztecs as top seeds were Auburn, Creighton and Florida, which earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first team to follow consecutive national titles with back-to-back NIT berths.
The Gators (23-10) reached the NIT title game last season, but have arguably the toughest road to get back to Madison Square Garden. They’ll open against Jacksonville.
Saint Mary’s likely was one of the last teams left on the doorstep when the NCAA bracket was announced, even though it went 2-3 against teams in the RPI top 50 and had won five straight entering the West Coast Conference tournament.
“I’d hoped common sense would prevail,” said Randy Bennett, the coach of the small school near San Francisco. “Using common sense, we’re one of the top 34 (at-large) teams. This was the best team we’ve ever had, so it’s just disappointing.”
Other notable teams that landed in the NIT included Davidson (26-7) and scoring sensation Stephen Curry, who became such NCAA tournament darlings last March, and Kentucky, which had made 17 straight NCAA fields. Davidson is at South Carolina in one of Tuesday’s better matchups.
Miami (18-12) and Virginia Tech (18-14) will represent the ACC in the event. Miami plays at Providence Wednesday, while the Hokies play at home against Duquesne.
N.C. State did not land a bid.