Providence coach Ed Cooley

Steven Branscombe/USA Today Sports

Friars play on, gain bid to NIT

John Rooke
March 17, 2019 - 9:53 pm

At the beginning of the season, the NIT wasn’t exactly the postseason tournament Providence figured to get into.

After all, out of the 10 Big East schools, only PC, Villanova and Xavier had reached each of the previous five NCAA tournaments since the league reconfigured itself before the beginning of the 2013-14 season.

Now, it’s only the defending NCAA champion Wildcats moving on for a 6th straight season in the new Big East, albeit as a slightly surprising 6th seed in the South Region.  Four Big East teams move on within March Madness’ premier event, while the Friars, Xavier Musketeers, Creighton Blue Jays, Georgetown Hoyas and Butler Bulldogs all received bids to the National Invitational Tournament Sunday night.

Providence will play Arkansas Tuesday night as the 4th seed in the Indiana bracket, with the winner potentially facing the #1 seed Hoosiers in the 2nd round.  Game time will be 9:00 pm ET as the second game of a nationally-televised doubleheader.  The Razorbacks were 17-15 during the regular season, and finished 8-10 in the SEC.

In case you were wondering, the last three NIT champions have all been seeded 4th.

Also in the NIT are Harvard, as a 6-seed against #3 Georgetown, 3rd seeded Xavier vs. #6 Toledo on Wednesday, 4th seeded Nebraska against 5-seed Butler and #2 seed Creighton vs. 7th seeded Loyola-Chicago – an NCAA Final Four participant last year.

All 10 Big East teams reached the postseason, five to the NIT and DePaul accepting a bid to play in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) to face Central Michigan.

Seeds 1-4 host games in the NIT first round, and the championships will be held at Madison Square Garden in New York April 2nd and April 4th.

As for the Big East reps in the NCAA’s, while Villanova won the Big East Tournament in New York Saturday night with a thrilling 74-72 victory over Seton Hall, the Wildcats (as a 6-seed) will face 11th seeded St.Mary’s, who won the West Coast Conference by beating top-seed Gonzaga.  The Cats will play the Gaels in Hartford on Thursday.

Marquette received a 5-seed in the West and gets a 12-seed in Murray State that will feature one of the dynamic guard matchups in the entire tournament, with Big East Player of the Year Markus Howard facing the Racers’ Ja Marant.  This one, too, will be played in Hartford on Thursday. 

Seton Hall reaches the Midwest Regional as a 10-seed against 7th seeded Wofford Thursday in Jacksonville, FL, with Wofford one of the pre-tournament darlings as a mid-major team reaching the tournament via an at-large bid.  And St. John’s earned the last, final spot in the field of 68 with an 11-seed First Four matchup against Arizona State in Dayton Wednesday night.

Also in New England, America East champ Vermont is seeded 13th in the West and will face 4th seed Florida State in Hartford Thursday, while the Colonial Athletic Association tournament champion Northeastern Huskies also received a 13-seed in the Midwest Region and they’ll face 4th seeded Kansas in Salt Lake City, UT.

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