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Men’s basketball excited for NIT debut
The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team’s loss to Robert Morris in the Northeast Conference Finals last Wednesday shattered the team’s dreams to play in its first NCAA Tournament.
Now the Bobcats will get a second chance to shine in its first National Invitation Tournament (NIT) appearance on Wednesday against the first-seeded Virginia Tech Hokies. Quinnipiac (23-9) clinched a berth to the NIT after a first-place regular season finish in the NEC.
“It’s obviously a great thrill and a great honor to be the first Quinnipiac team to play in a national postseason tournament at Division I in the history of this school,” said Tom Moore, Quinnipiac head coach and NEC Coach of the Year. “It’s the culmination of what’s been a record-setting season for us. It’s something that’s never been associated with our school’s name, so to be noticed nationally in such a historic postseason tournament is a great honor.”
Moore said his team is more excited than confident.
“I think there’s probably a nervous energy when you play a team that won 10 games in the ACC,” he said. “It’ll probably feel a lot like when we played UMass and URI on the road earlier in the year.
The Bobcats lost both those games, but by slim margins and in tough environments. The Bobcats finished the regular season on a 17-4 run after the loss to URI.
“They seem to be more excited than they are nervous,” Moore said. “I’m hoping that bodes well for us.”
Junior forward and NEC Player of the Year Justin Rutty will lead the Bobcats from the post with his 15 points per game. He has compiled 12 double-doubles in his last 14 games and his 11 rebounds per game currently rank ninth in the nation.
Senior forward James Feldeine, along with Rutty, earned All-NEC first-team honors and has led Quinnipiac in scoring with 17.3 points per game this season.
Virginia Tech (23-8) narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament as well after losing in its Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinal matchup against Miami (Fla.) 70-65 on March 12.
Junior guard Malcolm Delaney leads the Hokies, along with the rest of the ACC, averaging 20.4 points per game. Junior guard Dorenzo Hudson is 10th in the ACC, averaging 14.5 points per game. Junior forward Jeff Allen is a physical force inside averaging 12.4 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game.
“Virginia Tech is a terrific basketball team, extremely well-coached by Coach (Seth) Greenberg,” Moore said. “Anytime you’re playing a team that’s won 10 games in the ACC, you know you’re playing a fantastic team. They are always playing with a lot of energy and coach Greenberg historically gets his team to play hard.”
The winner will play the University of Connecticut, which beat Northeastern 59-57 in the first round yesterday.