Kansas State men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber and his players were open about their feelings for the NIT.
Weber said the Wildcats deserved to play in the postseason tournament made up of teams not selected for the NCAA Tournament. Senior guard Justin Edwards said he wanted to play in the NIT. Junior wing Wesley Iwundu said an invitation would boost spirits on a young roster.
But those desires didn’t help K-State with the tournament’s selection committee. The Wildcats were left out of the 32-team field announced Sunday night.
The snub put an end to K-State’s season. The Wildcats could have considered playing in other postseason tournaments, such as the CBI, CIT and the new Vegas 16, a single-elimination event played March 26-30 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, but they opted to decline those opportunities.
The Vegas 16 offered some appeal, as a trip to Las Vegas would serve as a reward for K-State players and give them extra practice time. But the Wildcats are already scheduled to travel to Europe in August for a series of exhibition games.
With that in mind, they decided a 33-game season was enough.
“We fell short this season in reaching our goal of playing in the NCAA Tournament,” Weber said in a release, “and although we were disappointed to not be selected for the NIT, I am proud of our players for their hard work and perseverance throughout this season. After we take a short break for our student-athletes to recover physically we will begin preparations for 2016-17, including training for our international trip to Switzerland and Italy in August.”
K-State had an argument for NIT inclusion. Its 17-16 record and No. 84 RPI were both typically strong enough to qualify, and the Wildcats beat then-No. 1 Oklahoma. But it was more difficult than usual for teams to receive at-large spots in the tournament.
Every regular-season conference champion that misses the NCAA Tournament is guaranteed to play in the NIT. With 14 such teams securing automatic bids, K-State was competing for one of 18 spots.
The top four seeds in the NIT are South Carolina, Valparaiso, St. Bonaventure and Monmouth. The last at-large team selected was Princeton.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett