By Cam Huffman
At least it’s an intriguing matchup.
As most expected, West Virginia University was left out of the NCAA Tournament field, marking the first time since the 1991-92 season that head coach Bob Huggins has missed the “Big Dance” in back-to-back seasons.
The consolation prize, though, wasn’t too bad.
WVU (17-15) earned a bid to the National Invitation Tournament, giving a young team some extra opportunities to take the court. It will also get to face a longtime rival in the opening round in former Big East foe Georgetown. The game, scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m., will air live on ESPN and will be played at McDonough Arena in Washington D.C.
“We’re happy to be able to continue play in the postseason,” said Huggins in a release sent out by WVU late Sunday evening. “Obviously, we are playing a team that we are familiar with and a team that is familiar with us from our Big East battles. We’ve had great games recently with Georgetown and in Washington D.C. at the NCAA Tournament. Mountaineer Nation has always turned out in great numbers in games there, and I know they will be there on Tuesday.”
The Mountaineers earned a No. 5 seed in this year’s tournament — after finishing 9-9 in Big 12 play to place sixth — meaning they will have to hit the road for the first round and won’t play a game at the WVU Coliseum unless there are upsets along the way.
Georgetown (17-14) finished 8-10 in the rebuilt Big East but still earned a No. 4 seed and the right to host the Mountaineers. The Hoyas’ marquee wins this season came over then-No. 10 VCU on Nov. 24, No. 7 Michigan State on Feb. 1 and No. 13 Creighton on March 4. Head coach John Thompson III saw his team lose five of its last seven contests, including a 60-56 setback against DePaul in the first game of the Big East tournament.
The Mountaineers and Hoyas played two common opponents this season. Georgetown knocked off Kansas State on Nov. 22 and fell 86-64 at Kansas in late December. WVU split with both of those Big 12 foes.
Tuesday’s game will mark the 52nd all-time meeting between the two former Big East rivals in what has been a tight series. The Hoyas lead 26-25. The last meeting came on Jan. 7, 2012, a 74-62 Mountaineer victory over the No. 9 Hoyas that marked their fifth straight win against Georgetown.
The winner of Tuesday’s game will play the winner of the game between top-seeded Florida State and No. 8 seed Florida Gulf Coast University. Other teams in WVU’s bracket include No. 2 seed Georgia and third-seeded Louisiana Tech. The winners of each of the four brackets will meet at Madison Square Garden, with the championship game scheduled for April 3.
WVU — one of just three Big 12 teams that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, and the only one in the NIT — will be playing in the NIT for the 16th time. It holds a 21-15 overall record in NIT play.
The Mountaineers defeated Delaware State, Massachusetts, N.C. State, Mississippi State and Clemson the last time it made the NIT in 2007, winning the entire tournament. Huggins’ first WVU squad used that run as a springboard to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2008.
The Mountaineers also won the NIT in 1942, when it was considered the most prestigious postseason tournament.
This year’s NIT will be the 77th all-time. It will include 32 teams in four eight-team brackets. Along with Florida State, St. John’s, Minnesota and Southern Methodist are the other No. 1 seeds.
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.
National Invitation Tournament Glance
The Associated Press
All Times EDT
Tuesday, March 18
Robert Morris (21-13) at St. John's (20-12), 7 p.m.
Florida Gulf Coast (22-12) at Florida State (19-13), 7 p.m.
West Virginia (17-15) at Georgetown (17-14), 7 p.m.
Belmont (24-9) at Wisconsin-Green Bay (24-6), 8:15 p.m.
High Point (16-14) at Minnesota (20-13), 8:15 p.m.
Georgia State (25-8) at Clemson (20-12), 9 p.m.
Indiana State (23-10) at Arkansas (21-11), 9 p.m.
Davidson (20-12) at Missouri (22-11), 9 p.m.
Utah (21-11) at St. Mary's (CA), 11 p.m.
Wednesday, March 19
Illinois (19-14) at Boston U. (24-10), 7 p.m.
Iona (22-10) at Louisiana Tech (27-7), 7:30 p.m.
Vermont (22-10) at Georgia (19-13), 8 p.m.
Toledo (27-6) at Southern Miss (27-6), 8:30 p.m.
UC Irvine (23-11) at SMU (23-9), 9 p.m.
LSU (19-13) at San Francisco (21-11), 10 p.m.
Utah Valley (20-11) at California (19-13), 10:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 20-Monday, March 24
Robert Morris-St. John's winner vs. Belmont-Wisconsin-Green Bay winner
Florida Gulf Coast-Florida State winner vs. West Virginia-Georgetown winner
High Point-Minnesota winner vs. Utah-St. Mary's (CA) winner
Georgia State-Clemson winner vs. Illinois-Boston U. winner
Indiana State-Arkansas winner vs. Utah Valley-California winner
Davidson-Missouri winner vs. Toledo-Southern Miss winner
Iona-Louisiana Tech winner vs. Vermont-Georgia winner
UC Irvine-SMU winner vs. LSU-San Francisco winner
Tuesday, March 25-Wednesday, March 26
At Madison Square Garden
Tuesday, April 1
Semifinal, 7 p.m.
Semifinal, 9:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 3
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.