- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

Georgetown, Virginia Tech and George Mason will continue their basketball seasons after accepting berths into the NIT.

The Hoyas and Hokies could face each other in the tournament’s second round if they win their opening games Wednesday.

Georgetown is the sixth seed in its quarter of the bracket and will face third-seeded Baylor on Wednesday in Waco, Texas. The second-seeded Hokies will play Duquesne in Blacksburg, Va. Baylor and Duquesne were finalists in the Big 12 and Atlantic 10 tournaments, respectively.

George Mason, which finished in second place in the Colonial Athletic Association, will open in State College, Pa., against Penn State - a team that many experts placed on the NCAA tournament bubble until Sunday night.

“We are excited about playing in the NIT. We are excited about playing Penn State,” George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said. “For me, I’m happy we’re not having to fly coast-to-coast or someplace and we get to play someone from a BCS conference.”

The NIT field includes several teams with a history of NCAA tournament success, including Kentucky, Florida, Notre Dame, Creighton and UNLV. Kentucky’s appearance marks the first time since 1991 that the Wildcats did not earn a berth into the NCAA tournament.

Georgetown had looked poised for an NCAA tournament bid earlier this season after wins against Memphis, Maryland and Connecticut. But the Hoyas fell to a tie for 10th in the Big East after winning just six games after Jan. 1.

For Virginia Tech, it is the second straight NIT appearance after falling just short of landing an at-large bid. The Hokies scored wins at Clemson and Wake Forest but stumbled down the stretch in the regular season. Their close loss to North Carolina in the ACC tournament was the second in as many years.

“I told [my team] that we were going to be in postseason play, that it was probably going to be the NIT and that in that field will be teams that won 20 games [and] have won national championships,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “It’s hard to make the NCAA tournament. You have to have a special season. But playing in the NIT is not an embarrassment.”

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