Given how they finished a year ago, Sunday’s news that the Huskies’ men’s hoops team will host a first-round game in the National Invitation Tournament against Boise State would have been celebratory news. But the startling, abrupt success new coach Mike Hopkins created with mostly the same players Lorenzo Romar had gave Huskies’ dreams of the Big Dance.
The fast start faded with six losses in the final games, including an overtime loss to Oregon State in the opening round of the Pac-12 tourney. So the NCAA’s Selection Sunday came and went without a mention of 20-12 Washington. The second-tier NIT, however, found room for the Huskies as a No. 5 seed, matched against the fourth-seeded Broncos (23-8) of the Mountain West Conference at 7 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN3).
“This is a great opportunity for our team to continue to play more games, get more practices in and continue to grow in this system and culture we are putting into place here at Washington,” Hopkins said in a statement. “I’m very proud of the hard work they’ve put in to get to this point and to be rewarded by extending our season is a great chance to keep getting better.”
The Huskies haven’t played Boise State since 1999, winning 72-57 to improve Washington’s series advantage to 8-1. The Broncos finished the conference season at 13-5 but lost to underdog Utah State in the MWC tourney to fall off the NCAA tourney bubble.
The NIT is a 32-team tourney that seeds four regions with eight teams each. If Washington beats BSU, they will play the winner of a first-round match between Southeastern Louisana and St. Mary’s, the West Coast Conference runner-up that won at Gonzaga during the regular season.
The first three rounds are on campuses, and the semifinals and finals are at Madison Square Garden in New York March 27-29. The Huskies are 7-8 in the NIT, winning one and losing one in 2016 reaching the semis in 2012.