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Originally published March 11, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 24, 2007 at 9:01 PM

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Huskies expecting an NIT bid today

Selection Sunday will arrive three hours later than hoped for the Washington Huskies. Instead of gathering in front of thousands of fans...

Seattle Times staff reporter

LOS ANGELES -- Selection Sunday will arrive three hours later than hoped for the Washington Huskies.

Instead of gathering in front of hundreds of fans to watch the unveiling of the NCAA tournament bracket, as they have done the past two years, the Huskies will be lingering in Edmundson Pavilion three hours later, watching to see what the NIT has in store for them.

The NIT pairings will be announced on ESPN2 and ESPNU at 6 p.m., and the Huskies are expected to be among the 32 teams invited.

They have a practice planned for after the show -- once they know who and where they will be playing. The first round comes early, and if invited, UW will play either Tuesday or Wednesday.

The tournament is seeded and bracketed like the NCAA tournament, unlike the old days when teams could essentially "buy" home games by promising big crowds.

The Web site NIT-ology on Saturday had the Huskies pegged as a No. 6 seed and playing at Oklahoma State in the first round. But that's a matchup both sides might try to avoid since UW is scheduled to play at Oklahoma State on Dec. 1 as part of the Pac-10-Big 12 Challenge.

UW is also hoping it's a top four seed so it can play at least one home game -- school officials have put in a bid to be a host team.

NIT pairings

ESPN2 and ESPNU @

6 tonight

In the aftermath of the loss to Washington State on Thursday night that ended UW's hopes of being an NCAA tournament team, the Huskies (who are 19-13) insisted they could get excited about the NIT.

"As funny as this sounds, we have to look forward to the NIT," said UW center Spencer Hawes. "As much of a letdown as it is, we have to handle it the best we can. We still have games to play."

Huskies coaches are looking at the NIT as a chance to continue building toward next year. The Huskies will lose just one scholarship player in reserve center Hans Gasser and Hawes could leave early for the NBA. But everybody else is expected back.

"We need the games," said UW assistant coach Jim Shaw. "Once you get over it [the disappointment of not getting into the NCAA tourney] you try to go and win some games."

Teams can play up to five games in the NIT. The first three rounds are held at campus sites. The semifinals and finals are held at New York's Madison Square Garden on March 27-29. Many of the games, including the semifinals and finals, are televised on ESPN.

NIT stands for National Invitation Tournament. The tournament has existed since 1938 and into the 1950s was regarded as the premier postseason tournament before the NCAA tournament began to take prominence.

The Huskies have played in the NIT five times, most recently in 1997. UW is 3-5 all-time in the NIT. Its best run came in 1987 when it advanced to the third round in Chris Welp's senior season.

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