Fresno State men’s basketball coach Rodney Terry felt the Bulldogs had a solid résumé to gain a spot in the NIT with 20 wins including eight over teams in the Top 100 in the RPI. They had ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak, advanced to the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament where the eventual champion KO’d them.
And while Terry admitted that there were a few anxious moments on Sunday, watching from his living room as the NIT field was unveiled, they will in fact be playing on.
The Bulldogs were slotted as the No. 5 seed in the Iowa quadrant of the NIT and will play at No. 4 Texas Christian on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Fresno State opens the NIT at Texas Christian on Wednesday. The Bulldogs are 6-9 on the road this season, but won their last two at San Diego State and at Boise State. They had not won at San Diego State since 1999 or at Boise State since 2004.
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It is the first time Fresno State will play in a postseason tournament in back-to-back years since advancing to the NCAA Tournament in 2000 and ’01, and the first time they have played in the NIT since 2007. The Bulldogs last season won the conference tournament and an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
The top seed in the bracket is Iowa followed by No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Alabama. Richmond is the No. 6 seed, Oakland is No. 7 and South Dakota is No. 8.
The other top seeds in the NIT are Syracuse, Cal and Illinois State. Colorado State and Boise State from the Mountain West also are in the NIT field.
“It’s a pretty good feeling,” senior forward Paul Watson said. “We’ve worked hard all year and we kind of earned the spot that we’re in right now. It was a good moment, not only for myself but for my guys … the younger guys will get that experience.
Our defense is going to have to travel to this game. TCU probably has a good fan base so we’re going to have to get out there and play as hard as we can defensively, execute our game plans and try to get a win.
Fresno State point guard Jaron Hopkins
“It’s definitely huge for the program, not only for the program but the community of Fresno. The program has been on the rise for a while now and the guys coming in are just trying to be a part of build a great culture here. It’s moving in the right direction.”
Should the Bulldogs win at TCU and advance in the tournament they would play the winner of a game between Iowa and South Dakota.
Terry shifted focus fairly quickly on Sunday to TCU, which is 19-15 and went 6-12 in the Big 12.
The Horned Frogs are 13-6 on their home court and after ending the regular-season on a seven-game losing streak they knocked off Oklahoma and then top-ranked Kansas in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Tournament.
“I do know they’re well coached,” Terry said. “Jamie Dixon is one of the best coaches in the country. We had a chance to coach against one of his teams at Pitt. His teams are always hard-nosed and he’s really had a great first year there at TCU.
“They have really good interior play along with good guard play. They just beat the No. 1 team in the country … that’s all you need to know.”
The 19 wins this season for TCU are its most since winning 21 in 2005. The Horned Frogs beat Oklahoma and Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament, the first time they have won two games in conference tournament since 1997 when in the WAC.
The Horned Frogs ranked fifth in the Big 12 in scoring offense (73.9) and sixth in scoring defense (70.3). They are led by Vladimir Brodziansky, a 6-foot-11 junior forward who is averaging 13.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while playing only 24.1 minutes per game. Alex Robinson, a 6-1 sophomore guard, is averaging 11.1 points per game and 6-7 forward Kenrich Williams is averaging 10.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
“You never take postseason for granted,” Terry said. “It’s always an honor to be playing at this time of year, because you’re going to be playing against some of the best teams in the country and everybody has had a great year if they’re still playing.
“For our program to still be doing that, it’s going to help us get better all the way around. Obviously, our younger guys get a chance to play at an elite level in a one-and-done type of situation and obviously the exposure, the exposure if big for your program. The way we finished gave us an opportunity to do this and we ended up being a No. 5 seed. The committee gave us a good look and respected our résumé.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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