The sixth seed in the Pac-10 Tournament had a well-sanded road to the NCAA Tournament. First up was a Cal team that really wanted to get back to Berkeley quickly, so it had more time to get ready for the NCAAs. The next night was UCLA, never as good playing a second game in a weekend. Finally, Arizona State was waiting in the final, not UW. And the Sun Devils were pretty satisfied with that, if you read the quotes from the players after Friday night's win. The USC Trojans gained traction in each round and reached their hoped-for destination today, the automatic NCAA berth. Just think. If WSU had been able to defeat UW last Saturday, the sixth seed would have been next to the Cougars' name. Oh well. Now it's a waiting game. Will the NIT call tomorrow? USC's win couldn't have hurt. One less Pac-10 team to fight for a West Coast berth. On the link we have the unedited version of our story about that subject that will appear in the S-R tomorrow. Read on.
• Here's the unedited version of the story …
PULLMAN – Sometime this evening the news will come down. Washington State University's men's basketball team will continue its season.
Where, when and in which of the three postseason tournaments, those particulars might take a little while longer to figure out.
The only thing for sure is the Cougars won't be making a third-consecutive NCAA appearance. But, for only the second time in school history, they will appear in the postseason for three years in a row.
"I won't say there is a 100 percent chance because you never know what may happen," said Steve Robertello, WSU's associate athletic director, charged by athletic director Jim Sterk as the point man on all postseason discussions this year.
"But I think you can put it's very likely we will have a postseason game at this point, but I don't want to say 100 percent."
OK, so it's very likely the Cougars will be trying to improve on its 17-15 record.
And if they have a choice, it would be as part of the 32-team National Invitational Tournament.
"That would be awesome," WSU coach Tony Bennett said of playing in the NIT after his team's loss to UCLA on Thursday. "Any of you guys got any friends, give the calls and let us know."
"I think so," Sterk said when asked if the NIT was his No. 1 choice. "I know so. I think playing in Madison Square Garden would be a great thing."
The NIT, which will announce its field on an ESPNU special at 6 p.m., still holds its Final Four in the famous New York arena, but otherwise the longest-running postseason basketball tournament has a new feel.
The NCAA bought the tournament in 2005, settling an anti-trust suit in the process. Now the NIT is almost a consolation prize for teams that don't get into the NCAA's field of 65, with all regular season conference champions guaranteed a berth.
That doesn't effect schools like WSU much – the Pac-10 champion is getting into the NCAA every year – except the more regular season mid-major titlists upset in their conference tournaments, the fewer NIT at-large berths there are available.
"It's tough to say anything for sure, but I think we have a great shot at playing in the NIT," Sterk said. "They don't make any decisions until after everything is done and they have to see what happens with the NCAA Tournaments."
The College Basketball Invitational, which began last year, is trying to fill its 16-team field right now.
"They're interested in us and I would say they've extended us an informal invitation," Robertello said Friday. "Nothing definite or lined up, but obviously they're very interested. If we wanted to or went down that road we could obviously say yes right now."
WSU is keeping its options open. After the NCAA announces its field of 65 starting today at 3 p.m., expect Sterk, Bennett and others to receive phone calls and weigh options.
"We'll huddle," Sterk said. "Obviously Tony is a big part of that. I want to get his preference of what he would want to do. But, ultimately, it ends up in my lap."
And Sterk said he wouldn't rule out hosting, though this is spring break week at WSU and filling Beasley Coliseum without the students would be a challenge. Before committing to a home game, Sterk said, WSU would want to know the opponent and the financial bottom line.
The formula varies by tournament.
If the Cougars host an NIT game, they would deduct their expenses – usually around $15,000 – from the gate and send the rest of the revenue to the NCAA. After the tournament is over, the organization takes whatever revenues were earned at all the sites, deducts its expenses and shares the profits with all the participants. Each game played earns a school a share. Play five games, get five shares.
The CBI and collegeinsider.com tournaments need an up-front guarantee, the CBI, $60,000, collegeinsider, $28,500. Add in the $15,000 or so to put on the game and the costs to host range from around $75,000 (CBI) to $43,500 (collegeinsider). Anything collected after that is profit kept by the host school.
Distance is also not a concern with the NIT. Last season the group sent San Diego State to Florida for a first-round game. With each team seeded like the NCAA Tournament, the matchups fall where they will.
It's not that way with the other two. Geographic proximity and travel costs plays a major role in deciding whether you get in and who you'll play.
The NIT also pays for a larger traveling party (25) than the others (22).
And did we mention the NIT final is in Madison Square Garden?
• That's it for this evening. Wait, before we go we have this link you might want. It's to P-I writer Dan Raley's blog. He has a post about Venoy Overton, who many of you have expressed opinions about before. Now you can again. We'll be back in the morning with links to USC's NCAA-clinching win and other items. Until then …