BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo men's basketball team was hoping for an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Bulls are headed to the National Invitation Tournament, and are realizing the opportunity that lies ahead.
"You're going to be disappointed because you didn't make the NCAA Tournament... that's the goal every year in our program, but to have this opportunity for our guys, I think is a great thing," said Bulls coach Jim Whitesell on Tuesday.
The Bulls now have the opportunity to keep their momentum rolling and play a top seed in Colorado State. Buffalo won 10 of their last 11 games before falling to Ohio in the Mid-American Conference Championship, 84-69, on Saturday, which would have earned the Bulls the MAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Whitesell used the most recent NIT Champions - from 2019, since the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 - to motivate his team.
"I asked the guys yesterday, 'Who won last NIT?' and the guys weren't sure for awhile. Finally Laquill Hardnett [says], 'I think it was Texas.' 'You're right,' I said. 'What did Texas do this weekend? They won the Big 12 title. What's their seed? The third seed.' So I think it definitely helps your program in the long run," Whitesell said.
The first step in moving the program forward - beating the Rams on Friday.
"Getting more and more familiar, [this is an] outstanding team. This would be like an NCAA Tournament game, this is your first round opponent," Whitesell said.
"Consider that, you better be really ready to play and, and we're gonna have to play a great game to win."
The Bulls and Rams play in their first round matchup on Friday at 7 p.m.