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Friday, Oct 31, 2014
Colleges

FSU hosts Florida Gulf Coast in NIT


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Florida State has earned a No. 1 seed to the National Invitation Tournament and will host Florida Gulf Coast, giving the Fort Myers school another shot at the postseason after last season’s “Cinderella” run in the NCAAs.

The Seminoles (19-13) and Eagles (22-12) meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN2) in Tallahassee. The winner meets the winner of the Georgetown-West Virginia game.

Last year, Florida Gulf Coast — which became known as “Dunk City” — became the first No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament to make it to the Sweet 16.

The Eagles, a No. 8 seed, earned an automatic berth to this year’s NIT by winning the Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season championship.

The other NIT top seeds include Minnesota, St. John’s and SMU, which was snubbed by the NCAA tournament after a three-game losing streak.

“The field in the NIT continues to improve each season and this is quite possible the best NIT field I can remember,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We really want our fans to continue to be behind our team as they have been all season long; we need the support of our fans against Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday night.”

SMU (23-9), led by Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, didn’t have consecutive losses until ending the regular season with losses to Top 25 teams Louisville and Memphis, then dropping its American Athletic Conference tournament opener to Houston.

“We could have beaten Louisville at home. ... We didn’t play our best game at Memphis, but we didn’t get blown out by either team,” a clearly disappointed Brown said after SMU was left out of the NCAA field. “But when we didn’t beat Houston, I kind of thought this could possibly happen.”

The 73-year-old Brown is in his second season at SMU, which hasn’t been in the NCAA tournament since 1993. The Mustangs’ last NCAA victory was in 1988, when Brown was the coach for national champion Kansas in his last tourney appearance.

SMU opens the NIT on Wednesday night at home against UC Irvine (23-11) from the Big West Conference. The Mustangs are 9-1 at renovated Moody Coliseum, the lone loss being that regular season home finale after building a 14-point lead before halftime against defending national champion Louisville.

St. John’s (20-12) plays at home Tuesday night against Robert Morris (21-13), which upset Kentucky in an NIT opener last year after the Wildcats missed a chance to defend their 2012 NCAA title. It is the record 30th NIT appearance for the Red Storm.

Minnesota (20-13) takes on Big South regular season champion High Point (16-14) in the first round.

The 32-team NIT field includes 13 automatic qualifiers, teams that won their regular-season conference titles without getting an NCAA bid. The final four teams play in New York’s Madison Square Garden on April 1, with the championship April 3.

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