The University of Kentucky's streak of 17 NCAA Tournament appearances might have ended today, but the Wildcats will still be dancing in March.
UK has been selected to play in the National Invitation Tournament, extending the Wildcats' streak of postseason appearances to 18. UK (20-13) earned a No. 4 seed and will face fifth-seeded UNLV (21-10) on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. The game will be televised live on ESPN.
The Wildcats own a 3-0 all-time advantage against the Runnin' Rebels and it will be the first meeting with UNLV since UK won 64-61 in the second round of the 1985 NCAA Tournament.
The NIT is the oldest tournament in college basketball, but it's a place the Wildcats haven't visited all that frequently. It's UK's seventh appearance in the tournament and first since losing to Clemson in the first round of the 1979 NIT, the only other time UK has hosted an NIT game. The Wildcats have four top-three finishes, including two titles in 1946 and 1976.
Maybe the NIT was not UK's ultimate goal at the beginning of the year, but it could be a building block for next year's team. The tournament has proven to be a springboard for teams in the past as 13 teams who finished in the top four of the NIT have gone on to make the NCAA Final Four the next year. UK conquered the task when it won the national championship in 1945, just a year after finishing fourth in the NIT.
If the Wildcats defeat UNLV on Tuesday, UK will play the winner of Creighton and Bowling Green. That game could be as early as Thursday or as late as March 23 (possible second-round dates are March 19, 20, 21 and 23).
The host of each site is determined by the higher seed, so UK could host the second round if Bowling Green defeats Creighton. If the Wildcats navigate through the 32-team tournament and make it to the semifinals, they'll make a trip to Madison Square Garden in New York.
Returning to the NIT will also mark the return to Memorial Coliseum, where the Wildcats called home from 1950 to 1976. UK was dominant during its stay at Memorial, posting 306 wins to just 38 losses.
NIT Central Website - http://www.ukathletics.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/031509aab.html
NIT Website - http://www.nit.org/
Fans can purchase tickets beginning Sunday evening by ordering online at Ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. All public tickets for the first round at Memorial Coliseum are $33 each. Everyone must have a ticket regardless of age and tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Starting Monday, tickets will also be available by calling the UK Ticket Office at (800) 928-2287 or ordering in person at the UK Ticket Office in the Joe Craft Center from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fans can visit any statewide Ticketmaster outlet (i.e. Kroger, etc.).
Tickets for students are $5 each and are available for full-time UK students and BCTC students who have paid their athletics fee for the spring semester. Student tickets will be available at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office beginning Monday at 8 a.m. Tickets will be sold on a first-come, first serve basis and there is a limit of one ticket per valid student ID. Students must present their student ID and ticket to be admitted to the game.