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Pitt misses out on NIT, will host Wofford in CBI

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By John Grupp
Monday, March 12, 2012

Pitt's worst season in more than a decade isn't quite over.

The Panthers (17-16), denied by the 32-team National Invitational Tournament, will host Wofford (19-13) in the pay-to-play College Basketball Invitational.

The first-round game will be held at Petersen Events Center on Wednesday night on the eve of the NCAA Tournament men's basketball games at Consol Energy Center two miles away.

Pitt, which survived a scare to beat Wofford, 63-60, in the 2009-10 season opener, missed the 68-team NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001. The Panthers were left out of the NIT later last night before accepting an 11th-hour spot in the CBI, a 16-team tournament that in the past cost upwards of $60,000 to host a game.

The winner will play the Princeton-at-Evansville winner in the second round on March 19 at an undetermined site and time.

The only other BCS schools in the CBI are Oregon State and Washington State.

Meanwhile, Robert Morris (24-10) will visit Indiana State (18-14) at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday in the opening round of the 24-team Tournament, which is aimed toward mid-majors and doesn't take schools from BCS conferences.

"They deserve to be playing," RMU coach Andrew Toole said. "We practiced today, and there was great excitement about being able to continue to play."

This would have marked the first time since 1978-79 that the Panthers finished a season with a winning record and weren't invited to a postseason tournament.

The players said after a disappointing 64-52 loss to Georgetown in the second round of the Big East Tournament on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden that they would welcome an NIT bid.

At the time, athletic director Steve Pederson said he and coach Jamie Dixon would "talk about" the CBI if the NIT didn't invite the Panthers.

The CBI begins Tuesday with first-round games. All games are played at host sites — they are reseeded after the quarterfinals — with a best-of-three finals March 26, 28 and 30.

Only two Big East teams — St. John's in 2009 and Cincinnati in '08 — have ever played in the CBI, a fifth-year event.

Dixon could not be reached for comment.

Pitt (98 RPI) applied for a berth in the NIT but missed the cut in a season in which it went 5-13 in the Big East and lost 15 of its final 21 games. Some at-large NIT picks selected ahead of the Panthers included Iowa (17-16, 8-10 in Big Ten, 139 RPI) and Minnesota (19-14, 6-12 in Big Ten, 89 RPI).

Robert Morris lost to Long Island, 90-73, in the NEC finals, while Indiana State, which is hosting its first postseason game in 34 years, fell to Wichita State, 72-48, in the Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinals.

"We didn't play our best game in the championship game, and I know, personally, I don't want that to be the last feeling about this team and this season," Toole said.

Toole said his players will leave Monday for a seven-hour bus ride to Terre Haute, Ind.

"It's a long bus ride," Toole said. "But we are fortunate to be able to be getting on the bus."

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