Arizona has been given the
No. 1 seed in the NIT Season Tip-Off, putting the Wildcats in position for a possible championship game showdown with second-seeded Duke on Nov. 29 in New York.
The NCAA announced bracketing for the 16-team event Tuesday, after the NIT committee decided that the Wildcats would be the top team and the lower-round games were finally filled out. Arizona will open the event against Fairleigh Dickinson on Nov. 18 at McKale Center.
Unlike the postseason NIT seeding, there is no body of work to judge a team on — but the Wildcats have been receiving rankings as high as No. 5 by some preseason publications.
“We just had to make the call, and we voted,” NIT selection committee chair C.M. Newton told the Star on Tuesday. “As I recall, it was very close, but Arizona got more of the No. 1 votes.”
The No. 1 seed means, with two early wins, Arizona would face a team from the pod hosted by fourth-seeded Rutgers on Nov. 27 at Madison Square Garden. The winner of that game will advance to the championship on Nov. 29, against a team from either of the pods that started at Alabama and Duke.
Because of scheduling difficulties, the No. 1 seed doesn’t make it much easier for Arizona. After facing lightly regarded Fairleigh Dickinson, the Wildcats will probably have to play fifth-seeded Rhode Island in the second round on Nov. 19 — and the Rams, under second-year coach Dan Hurley, may be the Atlantic-10’s most improved team this season.
Rhode Island will face Division II Metro State in the other first-round game on Nov. 18 at McKale. Denver’s Metro State and Stillman College of Tuscaloosa, Ala., were the two Division II teams added to the NIT Season Tip-Off, which Newton said has become something of a necessity.
“We just tried to geographically arrange teams as best we could,” said Newton, a former basketball coach and athletic director. “Metro State came in very, very late. … We had Division II teams last year, and this is an issue because Division I mid-majors, particularly in the West, were wanting considerable money to play in the preseason tournament. We just don’t have as much money to deal with. We waited on Division I teams and got tired of waiting.”
Arizona will pay its five one-time invitees to McKale Center an average of $91,200 in guaranteed compensation this season, according to contracts released to the Star via a public records request.
Ryan Reynolds, UA’s director of basketball operations, said he’s seen the national market rate for opponents rise from the $75,000-to-$85,000 range since UA coach Sean Miller took over the Wildcat program in 2009.
“It’s really gone up, especially with the East Coast and Midwest teams,” Reynolds said. “They’re pretty routinely over six figures now.”
Arizona will pay the most, $96,000, to Southern University for a game on Dec. 19. Long Beach State (Nov. 11) and New Mexico State (Dec. 11) will each receive $95,000, and Cal Poly (Nov. 8) will get $90,000. In-state cousin NAU will be paid $80,000 for a Dec. 23 game. Opponents are expected to pay their own travel costs from the guaranteed amount.
No guarantees are paid to UA’s home-and-home opponents, which include San Diego State (Nov. 14), Texas Tech (Dec. 3), UNLV (Dec. 7) and Michigan (Dec. 14) because games are held equally at both schools over the course of a two- or four-year deal.
• Arizona held brief full-team workouts on Sunday and Monday, the first days that more than small-group drills were allowed under NCAA rules. Full-length practices will begin on Sept. 27.
• The Wildcats are rated the No. 5 team nationally in the upcoming Blue Ribbon Yearbook, equaling their preseason ranking in the Sporting News basketball yearbook. The Wildcats have been picked No. 11 by Lindy’s college basketball annual.
• JaQuan Lyle, a 2014 point guard from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep who decommitted from Louisville, told Scout.com that he would visit Arizona on Oct. 11. He is also scheduled to visit Memphis, Kansas and Connecticut.
• Former UA target Paul White, a forward from Chicago who canceled a planned Sept. 7 visit to Tucson, committed to Georgetown.