Fresno State men’s basketball did not land a spot in the NIT and now has to hope their last game does not become the lasting memory from the 2018-19 season.
The Bulldogs (23-9) were projected by dratings.com and MidMajorMadness to be solidly in the 32-team National Invitation Tournament field, even after an 85-60 loss to Utah State on Friday in the semifinals on the Mountain West Conference Tournament. But the Bulldogs did not receive a bid in a 32-team field that lacks much West Coast presence and chose not to play in the CBI or CIT.
“We just kind of decided to end it now,” coach Justin Hutson said. “We had a great season – 23 wins, the seniors were awesome. We were disappointed we didn’t get into the NIT with our resume, our (kenpom.com) ranking, our NET ranking and our Quadrant One and Quadrant Two wins, our wins on the road and playing in a tough conference.
“You figured we’d be in the NIT. That’s what our plan was and since it didn’t happen we were just going to be happy with what we had.”
San Diego (21-14, 7-9), which finished in seventh place in the West Coast Conference but won three games to advance to the semifinals of the WCC tournament, did get into the NIT as a No. 6 seed.
Colorado, from the Pac-12, is the only other West Coast team in the NIT field.
“We’re disappointed,” athletics director Terry Tumey said. “We really thought that with our resume and where we were with our NET (ranking) there was a strong possibility that we’d be playing in postseason play. We just have to move forward and keep building our program. That’s the best thing we can do right now.
“We’re not going to be playing in any other tournaments, we’re going to keep concentrating on the future and celebrate the great season that these people had. There are not many times you get more than 20 wins and not many times do you perform the way these guys have. We’re going to appreciate that and continue to build our program.”
The Bulldogs were on a four-game winning streak, but played their worst game of the season in that loss to Utah State, which went on to win the conference tournament and automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament that goes along with it.
For the season Fresno State scored 42 percent of its points on 3-point shots, 10th highest in the nation, but against Utah State hit a season-worst 19.2 percent (5 of 26).
In the first half Fresno State hit just 11 of 31 shots and 3 of 15 from the 3-point line, 35.5 and 20 percent. It trailed by double-digits less than seven minutes in and the Aggies ended the half on a 9-0 run to go into the break leading by 23 points, 50-27.
The Bulldogs were confident they were deserving of an NIT bid after that game, and Tumey was prepared to go shopping for a spot in the College Basketball Invitational or CollegeInsider.com Tournament to give coach Justin Hutson and his team a chance to keep playing basketball.
“Those are opportunities that we evaluated and we thought about, but at this point in time we just think this is the best way for us to go,” Tumey said.
UNC-Greensboro, Indiana, Alabama and TCU are the No. 1 seeds in the 32-team NIT field.