A year after reaching the NCAA Final Four, Louisville accepted its second bid to the NIT in Rick Pitino's five seasons as head coach. The Cardinals played in the NIT in 2001-02, Pitino's first season, falling to Temple in the second round.
The Cardinals finished the season 6-10 in the Big East and 18-12 overall. They'll play at Freedom Hall Friday March 17 at 7 p.m. and will face the winner of the Delaware State (20-13) - Northern Arizona (21-10) game.
Should the Cardinals advance, U of L would play the winner of the Clemson/Louisiana Tech matchup on March 20 in Freedom Hall at a time to be determined. The quarterfinal round would be played on March 22, however, the site is undetermined due to the availability of Freedom Hall. The semifinals will be played on March 28 in Madison Square Garden in New York, with the championship game played there on March 30.
"I was always a big proponent of the old NIT, when all the teams were brought into Madison Square Garden," Pitino said. "Now that the committee has taken the same format as the NCAA in terms of seeding and brackets, it becomes very exciting for all those involved. I don't think you'll find a more competitive NIT field than the one I'm looking at with this one. We relish the challenge."
Northern Arizona posted a 21-10 record and were the regular season champions of the Big Sky Conference (12-2), falling 73-60 to Montana in the tournament championship game. NAU and U of L had one common opponent this season in UC Davis. NAU beat UC Davis 78-50, while the Cardinals won 81-58.Delaware State produced a 20-13 mark and won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular season title with a 16-2 league record. The Hornets fell 60-56 to Hampton for the MEAC tournament title. Both U of L and Delaware State played Marquette during the regular season, with Delaware State falling 60-48 at Marquette and U of L beating Marquette 67-60.
This is the 50th anniversary of U of L's 1956 NIT Championship and the Cardinals also advanced to the national semifinals in 1985.
Tickets, priced at $25 each, may be purchased through TicketMaster starting at 9 a.m. Monday by phone locally at (502) 361-3100; online at www.ticketmaster.com, where fans may print their game tickets and avoid waiting in will call lines; or by visiting any TicketMaster outlet, which includes statewide Kroger stores. Tickets for U of L students are available for $5 through both the U of L ticket office locations.
Tickets may also be purchased in person at four locations with no service charge: both U of L ticket offices located near Gate 2 on the Floyd Street side of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and on the third floor of the Swain Student Activities Center; the Freedom Hall ticket office; and the box office at the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville. Each site is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. weekdays.
A limited number of priority seats will be held for Cardinal Athletic Fund members. Those tickets must be purchased in person at either U of L ticket office location. Due to the short time period to sell and allocate tickets, these limited priority seats will be sold to CAF members on a first come, first served basis.
The NIT will get underway Tuesday night with eight opening-round games. The top 32 teams won't begin tournament action until March 15-18.