NIT: Illini draw Boston

NIT: Illini draw Boston

CHAMPAIGN — Despite not being one of the six Big Ten teams selected to participate in the NCAA tournament, Illinois' season will continue with a trip to Boston University to face the Terriers in the opening round of the NIT.

The second-seeded Illini and Boston will play on Wednesday.

NIT games are typically played on the home court of the higher-seeded teams, but because of the renovation of State Farm Center, the Illini cannot host.

It's the fourth time in the last seven seasons that Illinois has missed the NCAA tournament.

Illinois played itself into the postseason with a strong finish to the season, winning five of its last seven games, including victories on the road against NCAA teams Michigan State and Iowa.

It's the first appearance in the NIT for the Illini since the 2009-10 season. That season the top-seeded Illini were forced to play on the road in the opener at Stony Brook because the Assembly Hall was booked. Illinois went on to beat Kent State at home before losing to eventual champion Dayton in a quarterfinal at home.

This is the second consecutive season in which Illinois will play postseason basketball after reaching the NCAA tournament's round of 32 last season.

The lone member of the current Illinois team to play in an NIT game is Jon Ekey, who was a member of Illinois State's team that reached the second round in 2011-12. Joseph Bertrand was redshirting as a true freshman when Illinois last participated in the tournament.

For those of you who long for the day Illinois returns to the NCAA tournament, we've included a photo gallery to the right of Selection Sunday in 2009. Those were the days ....

In case you missed our NIT guide, a review:

1 The pairings will be announced at 7:30 p.m. during the NIT Selection Show special on ESPNU.

2 The date and time for Illinois’ game will be announced tonight, but the NIT begins on Tuesday with all games being broadcast on the ESPN family of networks.

3 The field will consist of four eight-team brackets seeded 1-8. The higher-seeded team hosts until the Final Four. Illinois cannot host regardless of seed because of the State Farm Center renovation.

4 There are automatic bids for the NIT like there are for the NCAA tournament. Teams that won their conference’s regular season title but not the tournament automatically qualify for the NIT if not selected as an at-large NCAA tournament team. Florida Gulf Coast, Boston, Robert Morris, Iona, California-Irvine, Utah Valley, Green Bay, Vermont, High Point, Davidson and Belmont are teams that won their conference titles but not the tournament and will likely be passed over for NCAA at-large bids.

5 The other Big Ten teams in consideration for an NIT bid are Minnesota and Indiana. The Gophers are 20-13 and finished seventh in the Big Ten, a game ahead of Illinois. The Hoosiers are 17-15 and tied for eighth in the league with the Illini. Minnesota is an NCAA tournament bubble team and could hear its name called on tonight’s NCAA selection show. Indiana is considered an NIT bubble team.

6 If the Illini are chosen for the NIT, it will be the first appearance for them in the tournament since the 2009-10 season. That year, the top-seeded Illini opened the tournament on the road at Stony Brook because a concert at the Assembly Hall prevented them from hosting. Illinois played two subsequent games at home, defeating Kent State before bowing out to eventual champion Dayton with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
7 Illinois has appeared in the NIT four times (1980, 1982, 1996, 2010) and has a 7-4 record in the event. The best finish for the Illini was a third-place showing in 1980. Illinois lost a semifinal against Minnesota and beat UNLV in the third-place game. There is no longer a third-place game.

8 Games during the first three rounds of the tournament are played on campus sites, and the semifinals and final will be played at Madison Square Garden. The championship game will be held on April 3.

9 Illinois coach John Groce has never taken a team to the NIT as a head coach in his five previous seasons. He was, however, a part of Ohio State’s coaching staff in 2008 when the Buckeyes won the NIT championship.

10  Since the NIT began in 1938, eight teams have won the championship as members of the Big Ten. Penn State’s title in 2009 is the most recent. Minnesota (1998) and Michigan (1997) won championships but later vacated them because of NCAA sanctions. Nebraska won the title in 1996 as a member of the Big 12. Iowa was the runner-up last year to Baylor.

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G3ea04 wrote on March 16, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Why not play at another local gym/arena vs traveling to Boston?  There are plenty of Illini fans throughout the state.