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UALR hoping to get NIT bid

By The Associated Press

This article was published March 11, 2009 at 4:54 p.m.

Arkansas-Little Rock hopes its 23 victories against Division I teams will carry enough weight to land the Trojans a bid in the NIT.

UALR lost 54-44 in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference tournament to South Alabama, which fell to eventual champion Western Kentucky.

"I just feel like those guys are deserving of some type of postseason," UALR coach Steve Shields said. "Unfortunately, it won't be the NCAA Tournament. But I would certainly hope that we would have serious, serious consideration for a NIT bid. If not, I'll be honest, I can't help but feel there's a little bit of hypocrisy out there."

In 2003, the NIT passed over UALR, which had a record of 18-12. But only 15 of those victories came against NCAA Division I opponents. The NIT picked Western Kentucky that year, even though the Hilltoppers lost twice to the Trojans. The tournament said the lack of Division I wins was the reason.

The Trojans will learn Sunday night whether they will get an NIT invitation. The bids will be announced after the NCAA Tournament announces the teams it has chosen.

"We were told you played three non-Division I games and only had 15 wins four years ago. Now, we've played a straight Division I schedule and have 23 wins," Shields said. "If these seniors aren't able to play, they're left out, where do you go? You look at RPI four years ago was 64 playing three non-Division Is. Had we replaced some of those lower, maybe it would be what it was four years ago."

Arkansas-Little Rock finished with a record of 23-8, and a Ratings Percentage Index ranking of 94. The lower an RPI rating, the more likely a school is to play in the NCAA Tournament. UALR rated 218th in strength of schedule.

But the Trojans tied for the national lead with 11 road victories, and they won eight away games in a row. The Trojans have also won 14 of their past 17 games.

UALR's last postseason tournament invitation was to the NIT in 1996. UALR has played in the NCAA Tournament three times - 1986, 1989 and 1990 - and the NIT three times -1987, 1988, 1996.

If UALR is passed over by the NIT, two other 16-team tournaments could seek out the Trojans. The College Basketball Invitational held its first tournament last season. Launching this year is the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The tournaments require participant schools to pay to play.

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