Maryland's men's basketball season will continue in the NIT, where the Terps are a No. 2 seed and will open Tuesday night at Comcast Center against seventh-seeded Niagara of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
"I just think we're playing our best basketball," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "The guys are excited. That confidence should serve us well heading into Tuesday."
Turgeon had met with his team earlier in the day and told them he was "very confident" the Terps would be selected for the NIT after missing the postseason in his first Maryland season a year ago.
Maryland players were somber in the locker room after losing, 79-76, to North Carolina in the ACC tournament Saturday. But Turgeon said the players felt good about the way they had played in the tournament, particularly after upsetting No. 2 Duke on Friday.
Asked about the NIT, point guard Pe'Shon Howard said after the North Carolina game: "We play for each other. We play for people in this locker room. Whenever you step on the court and get between the lines, you never want to let each down so I think that'll be our main motivation."
There was a time — in the years following the 2002 national championship — that Maryland and its fans would probably have been dismissive of any tournament other than the NCAA. But this year's team is young and needs postseason experience. "Great opportunity for us to keep playing," Turgeon said. Maryland last played in the NIT in 2008.
Turgeon said of Niagara: "I kind of had a feeling they would be the team. There were like three or four teams we targeted."
But the coach said he knew little about the Purple Eagles other than that they had some "toughness" and would likely run a small lineup relative to the Terps. "Niagara is going to see us on TV more than we've seen them," Turgeon said.
Niagara finished second in the MAAC in scoring to Iona, which is headed to the NCAA tournament. They averaged 73.9 points. They are led by 6-3 guard Antoine Mason (18.5 points per game), a redshirt sophomore.
The Purple Eagles finished next-to-last in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 71.7 points per game.
Tickets for the first round are being sold for $25 to the general public. Information is available on umterps.com.
Turgeon gets a $25,000 bonus for the NIT bid, according to his contract. He gets $10,000 for each additional NIT victory.