NIT men's basketball: Florida Gators host Jacksonville on Wednesday

TAMPA — Florida will play postseason basketball, but it won't be in the NCAA Tournament.

The Gators are in the NIT for the second straight year and host Jacksonville at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Florida (23-10), selected as a top seed, becomes the first team in 28 years to make back-to-back NIT appearances in consecutive seasons after winning a national championship. Michigan State won a national title in 1979 then went to the NIT in 1980 and 1981.

"We're grateful for the opportunity to continue our season at the NIT," UF coach Billy Donovan said in a statement Sunday night. "We're looking forward to the opportunity to continue to practice and grow as a team. Jacksonville will be an extremely tough opponent. They won their league and played a very strong nonconference schedule, so we'll be playing a very formidable opponent on Wednesday."

The Gators, who went 5-7 in their past 12 games, including four losses in their final five, entered the SEC tournament last week hoping to play their way in. A quarterfinal loss to Auburn ended those hopes, but the players said afterward that they still hoped they had a chance.

Despite a second-straight NIT appearance, the players insisted this season was different.

"I think we're a better team," sophomore guard Nick Calathes said. "I think we're a lot better team than last year, a different team. … We battled. It didn't come up the way we wanted it to come up."

This will be the first meeting this season between Florida and JU (18-13). If the Gators advance, they play the winner of Wednesday's Miami at Providence game.

Joining the Gators as top seeds in the 32-team tournament are Auburn, Creighton and San Diego State, which had the highest RPI (34) of any team that didn't make the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, Saint Mary's likely was one of the last teams left out when the NCAA bracket was set, even though it went 2-3 against teams in the RPI top 50.

"I was hoping common sense prevailed," coach Randy Bennett said. "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 to be in this situation."

Other notable teams in the NIT include Davidson, with scoring sensation Stephen Curry, and Kentucky, which had made 17 straight NCAA fields.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Fast facts

NIT pairings

Tuesday

• Davidson (26-7) at South Carolina (21-9), 7

• Rhode Island (22-10) at Niagara (26-8), 7

• George Mason (22-10) at Penn State (22-11), 8

• UAB (22-11) at Notre Dame (18-14), 9

• UNLV (21-10) at Kentucky (20-12), 9:30

• Weber State (21-9) at San Diego State (23-9), 10

• Nebraska (18-12) at New Mexico (21-11), 10

• Washington State (17-15) at St. Mary's (25-6), 11

WEDNESDAY

• Duquesne (21-12) at Virginia Tech (18-14), 7

Miami (18-12) at Providence (19-13), 7

• Illinois State (24-9) at Kansas State (21-11), 8

• Bowling Green (19-13) at Creighton (26-7), 8

• Tennessee-Martin (22-9) at Auburn (22-11), 8

Florida (23-10) vs. Jacksonville (18-13), 8

• Northwestern (17-13) at Tulsa (24-10), 9

• Georgetown (16-14) at Baylor (20-14), 9

NIT men's basketball: Florida Gators host Jacksonville on Wednesday 03/15/09 [Last modified: Sunday, March 15, 2009 11:25pm]

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