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Ravell Call, Deseret News

Utah to play Boise State in NIT as a 3 seed

By Josh Furlong | Posted - Mar. 12, 2017 at 8:04 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah men’s basketball program will continue its postseason play after being selected for the 2017 National Invitational Tournament.

The Utes enter the tournament as a 3 seed and will play No. 6 Boise State on Tuesday at the Huntsman Center at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.

"It is a really good thing for this team to continue the season," junior Kyle Kuzma said in a statement. "This will be a great experience for us, as we are a young team and have a lot of younger guys that continue to grow. It is exciting that we can keep playing basketball."

Utah is in the region with No. 1 Illinois State. Should Utah win its first game, the program will play with No. 2 Illinois or No. 7 Valparaiso. Utah could potentially meet up with Colorado in the region final.

Boise State finished the regular season with a 19-11, 12-6 record, finishing third in the Mountain West Conference. The Broncos earned a bye in the MWC Tournament but lost in the quarterfinal round to San Diego State, 87-68.

Utah finished the regular season in sole possession of fourth place in the Pac-12, earning the program a bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Utes, however, would lose their first game, falling to Cal 78-75 in the quarterfinals.

Utah and Boise State have played seven times in program history, with the last matchup coming in 2013 when the Broncos edged the Utes 69-67. Utah has played Boise State in the NIT one time before, losing 62-62 in the first round in 1987. The Utes have an all-time record of 4-3 against the Broncos.

Although Utah exited the Pac-12 Tournament sooner than expected, senior Lorenzo Bonam said the team will use its loss to Cal as extra motivation to do well in the NIT.

“I’ll put this in my back pocket any time I feel lazy or doing something,” Bonam said following Utah’s loss Thursday. “I’ll pull it out of my back pocket and review it. It’s a hurtful moment.”

“(The Cal) loss is definitely firing us up and motivating us for the future, whether that’s the NIT or next year,” sophomore Sedrick Barefield added. “There’s kind of a bad taste in our mouths and I hope we all remember it moving forward.”

Utah to play Boise State in NIT as a 3 seed

This will be Utah’s 13th appearance in the NIT, with its latest in 2014 when Utah lost to Saint Mary’s in the opening round. Utah won an NIT championship in 1947 when it defeated Kentucky 49-45. Utah returned to the NIT championship one other time in 1974 but lost to Purdue, 87-81.

The NIT includes 32 teams, with the higher-seeded team earning home-court advantage. The second round will be play March 16-20 with the quarterfinals on March 21-22. The semifinal round will follow on March 28 and the championship game being played on March 30. The first three rounds of the tournament will be played at the higher-seeded team’s home site, with the semifinal and championship game being played at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Joining the Utes in the NIT from the state of Utah is No. 3 BYU, who will play No. 7 UT-Arlington. BYU and Utah are in different regions and would only get an opportunity to play each other should both teams make it to New York City.

Josh Furlong

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