New Mexico is making its sixth straight trip to the National Invitation Tournament. For intra-state rival New Mexico State, the bid to the nation's oldest postseason tournament has been a little longer in coming.
"This renews our spirit," New Mexico State Coach Neil McCarthy said after the Aggies were selected for the 32-team NIT.It's the first time in 50 years that New Mexico State is heading for the NIT, now in its 52nd year. The Aggies, 21-10 and second to Nevada-Las Vegas in the Big West Conference, will host Pepperdine, 19-12, on Thursday.
NMSU had its first 20-win season since 1979 and McCarthy felt losses by two and six points against the nationally ranked Runnin' Rebels might be enough to get the Aggies into the NCAA Tournament.
New Mexico finished 20-10 this season, but a one-point loss to Hawaii on the final day of the Western Athletic Conference regular season cost the Lobos a share of the league title. Then the Lobos lost 89-57 to Texas-El Paso in the WAC tournament. The Lobos host Santa Clara, 20-10, in a first-round game Thursday.
Also invited to the tournament Sunday were defending NIT champion Connecticut, last year's runnerup, Ohio State, and three schools with 23 victories: Georgia Southern, 23-5; Boise State, 23-6, and St. Louis, 23-9.
Other invitees include Arkansas State, 20-9; Kent State, 20-10; Akron, 21-7; Richmond, 20-9; St. Peter's, 22-8; UC Santa Barbara 21-8; Southern Illinois, 20-13; Temple, 18-11; Villanova, 16-15; Alabama-Birmingham, 18-11; Mississippi, 15-14; New Orleans, 19-10; St. John's, 15-13; Wichita State, 18-13; Wisconsin, 17-11; N.C.-Charlotte, 17-11; Murray State, 19-10; Penn State, 19-11; Hawaii, 17-12; California, 19-11; Nebraska 16-15; Michigan State, 15-13; and Oklahoma State, 16-12.