Wildcats Headed for NIT Play

While not overly happy about it, Kansas State accepted an NIT invitation Sunday to play in its third consecutive postseason basketball tournament. "I guess that says we're doing something right," said KSU coach Frank Martin.

It will be a homecoming when Kansas State (21-11) plays host to Illinois State (24-9) Wednesday in the opening round of the 2009 NIT. K-State accepted the invitation Sunday night as the No. 4 seed, and will play No. 5 seed ISU at 7 p.m. in Bramlage Coliseum. The game will not be televised.

"Ever since we lost (to Texas in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals) I was preparing for the NIT," Martin said Sunday night in a somber press conference setting in the Legends Room of Bramlage Coliseum. "We didn't win enough. It is what it is."

For multiple members of the ISU family, it will be coming back home as coach Tim Jankovich is a 1982 grad of KSU, assistant coach Anthony Beane a 1994 graduate, and athletics director Sheahon Zenger a 1987 gradaute.

Calling the 32-team field the "NCAA No. 2" because of the classy names in the field, Martin said, "If you don't get excited about playing in this, you're going to get embarrassed in a hurry. It's not the NCAA, we understand that and we're disappointed, but we're excited about the opportunity to continue to compete, continue to go out and prove, and get better as a team.

"It's huge," Martin said. "There's the opportunity to play for a trophy. When given that opportunity, you want to take advantage of it."

Later he added, "You want to win today, but are always preparing for tomorrow."

For senior Darren Kent, it will be his second NIT appearance with this one having a different emotion than the past.

Two years ago under coach Bob Huggins, K-State was 22-11and fully expecting to get into the NCAA event, but the K-State name was never called.

This year, Kent said, "It was tough to see those teams you beat get in, but this time we knew for a couple weeks we needed a couple more quality wins. We had the games in our hands, but let them slip. Ultimately, we knew we didn't get enough done."

So, it will be the NIT.

"Teams in the tournament are all good competition," said sophomore guard Jacob Pullen. "I have a lot of friends on other teams where their season is over with and they're going home to watch TV. I'm texting them that we have practice at 3 tomorrow."

With a win, K-State will play the winner of Tuesday's game between 23-9 San Diego State and 21-9 Weber State, the Nos. 1 and 8 seeds, respectively, in the West Regional.

If K-State and San Diego State win, the Second-Round game would be in San Diego over the weekend. If K-State and Weber State win, the second game would be in Manhattan.

The date for the second-round has yet to be set. Also in the bracket are 26-6 St. Mary's of California vs. 17-15 Washington State, and, 21-9 South Carolina vs. 26-7 Davidson. NO. 1 SEEDS: 23-9 San Diego State, 22-11 Auburn, 26-7 Creighton, 23-10 Florida.

Joining KSU in the NIT from the Big 12 are Baylor, a No. 3 seed, and Nebraska, a No. 6 seed.

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