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Lions not selected to play in postseason NIT

Photo from Penn State Twitter: John Harrar

In what has to be considered a surprise, Penn State was not selected for the postseason NIT on Sunday night.

The Nittany Lions have just an 11-14 record, and they went just 7-12 in the Big Ten (8-13 when considering two Big Ten Tournament games). But that wasn’t good enough to be selected for the 16-team NIT field.

Not only was PSU not among the 16 teams invited, the Lions were not listed as one of the “first four” teams out in the selection show on ESPNU. Those teams will be on standbye, in case another team cannot participate. The first four teams on standbye are Belmont, Furman, Marshall and UAB.

RELATED: The full NIT bracket can be found here

There are only 16 teams in this year’s NIT field, down from the usual 32. All games will be played in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Teams did not need to have a winning record in order to be selected for NIT. However, no team in the field has a record below .500.

Penn State is No. 42 in the NCAA NET rankings, which were used to help select teams for the NCAA Tournament. Because of that, and the Lions’ good wins this season, many believed PSU would make the NIT.

But the school is looking for a new head coach, after interim coach Jim Ferry led the squad this season. Athletic director Sandy Barbour has said that she wants to name the next head coach immediately after the season.

Given where the program is, and the decision that looms with a new head coach, is it possible that Penn State might have been selected but chose to opt out of the NIT? Hopefully we can find out the answer to that in the coming days. Other teams such as Xavier, Seton Hall and St. John’s reportedly opted out of the NIT.

Update: Barbour tweeted this out late Sunday, so it does appear that PSU was ready to accept an NIT bid if it had received one.

Ferry said after a loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament that the Lions would accept an NIT bid if invited.

“We will absolutely play in the NIT, and we are all on the same page — school, the players, we all want to keep this thing going. So, if we get invited, we’d be more than happy. We’d be excited to play in the NIT, absolutely.”

These tweets from Jamari Wheeler and Myles Dread would seem to indicate that Penn State did want to be invited.

Giger’s take

Penn State’s season is over, and to be honest, that’s a good thing. It would have been fun to see if the Lions could have made a run in the NIT, and they certainly could have done just that. PSU has won the tournament the last two times it appeared (2009, 2018).

But it’s time to move on.

The program needs to hire a new coach, and frankly, getting that process completed as quickly as possible is more important than seeing what the team might be able to do in the NIT over the next couple of weeks.

Going to the NIT this year would have been different.

First, it probably would have cost the school money to do so, and as I’ve written about extensively, finances with men’s basketball are a very precarious thing. What’s the point of losing ANY money if you can spend that toward the next head coach or his staff?

Second, what if Penn State went on a great run and actually won the NIT? That may only add more pressure to AD Sandy Barbour about perhaps having to retain Ferry as head coach, and at this point, that simply would not be a good move.

The season is over.

It’s time for Penn State to start preparing for the future, whatever that may hold.

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Written By

Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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