Maryland will host Niagara in the opening round of the NIT at Comcast Center on Tuesday night. Provided the Terrapins win, they could also host a second game this week, coach Mark Turgeon said. The game would have to be played before the NCAA women’s tournament takes over Comcast on Saturday.
After losing to North Carolina in the ACC semifinals on Saturday, Turgeon said he knew Maryland (22-12) was resigned to the NIT. The team did not meet to watch the NCAA selection show. They gathered at 7:30 p.m., when the show was complete, and made plans for the week, confident that the NIT bid was coming even though the selections weren’t announced until 9.
“The guys are excited,” Turgeon said. “They’re happy with the way they played this weekend. They competed. They played to the final buzzer in every game. That confidence should serve us well headed into Tuesday.”
Niagara (19-13), the regular season champion in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, lost in the conference tournament semifinals to eventual champion Iona. The Purple Eagles are led by a pair of 6-3 sophomore guards, Antoine Mason (18.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Juan’ya Green (16.8 ppg, 5.0 apg). If Maryland wins it will play either No. 3 Denver (21-9) or No. 6 Ohio (24-9).
Tuesday will be a homecoming for Niagara coach Joe Mihalich, 56, who was born in D.C. and served five seasons under legendary Morgan Wootten. Mihalich has been the head coach at Niagara for 15 seasons and has won more games (265) than any coach in MAAC history.
The only time Maryland has faced Niagara was in the NIT championship game in 1972, a 100-69 victory for the Terrapins, at Madison Square Garden as 6-11 sophomore Tom McMillen was named MVP.
In another NIT matchup, No. 1 Virginia (21-10) will play host to No. 8 Norfolk State (21-11), the regular season champion in the MEAC. If Virginia wins, it will play No. 4 St. Joseph’s or No. 5 St. John’s. The other No. 1 seeds in the tournament are Kentucky, Southern Mississippi, and Alabama.