Rainbows come home to wait to hear from NIT
RENO, Nev. » The Hawaii basketball team is scheduled to return to Honolulu this afternoon and will learn shortly after touching down whether its season will continue in the National Invitation Tournament.
The 40-team NIT field will be announced today at 4 p.m.
UH coach Riley Wallace said yesterday that he hadn't heard from tournament officials, but remained cautiously hopeful that the call will come today.
"You can always hope," he said, "but you don't want to get it too high."
The Rainbow Warriors were set to leave Reno this morning with a 17-11 record after losing to New Mexico State 58-57 in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament last Thursday.
UH athletic director Herman Frazier said last week that the school had filed paperwork for the Rainbows to be considered for the NIT and submitted a bid to host a game at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Wallace said Frazier had also spoken to WAC commissioner Karl Benson, who is in Indianapolis as a member of the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
ESPN.com contributor Joe Lunardi, who regularly posts a "Bracketology" report, had Hawaii "in the mix" for an NIT berth in a story posted online yesterday.
Hawaii won seven of eight games before losing to Louisiana Tech in its regular-season finale to finish fourth in the WAC. The Rainbows then lost a heartbreaker to NMSU to suffer their third straight defeat in the WAC tournament quarterfinals.
Hawaii last played in the NIT in 2004, winning at Utah State and returning home for a victory over Nebraska. The 'Bows' run ended with a loss at Michigan. UH missed the postseason last year, ending a string of four NCAA or NIT appearances.
The NCAA now runs the NIT, and for the first time the tournament guaranteed berths to regular-season conference champions not selected to the NCAA Tournament. The selection committee can also include teams with losing records this year.
Louisiana Tech, the WAC's third-place team, figures to receive a bid today. NMSU (16-14) is also hoping for a call from the NIT.
The NIT field will be finalized after the NCAA Tournament brackets are revealed this afternoon.
Nevada earned the WAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with its win over Utah State for the conference championship last night at the Lawlor Events Center.
Home sweet home: Having the host team in the final certainly helped the WAC tournament at the gate. This year's event drew 42,369 fans to the Lawlor Events Center, up from 19,607 last year when Nevada was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
The three-day total was the highest since the 1999 tournament in Las Vegas drew 47,646 fans. Next year's tournament will be held in Las Cruces, N.M.
All-Tourney: Nevada forward Nick Fazekas averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds in three games to earn the tournament's Most Valuable Player award. The junior was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammates Mo Charlo and Marcelus Kemp, Utah State's Nate Harris and Louisiana Tech forward Paul Millsap.
Fazekas, who is considering declaring for the NBA Draft after the season, left the court to chants of "one more year" from the Nevada fans.