Cal, USF, St. Mary’s all part of NIT field

While Stanford was the only Bay Area men’s basketball team picked for the NCAA Tournament, three teams — USF, Cal and St. Mary’s — all were selected for the NIT on Sunday and will host first-round games.

Cal (19-13) seemed to have the best shot of reaching the NCAA Tournament, but the Bears ended the year losing four of their final five games, which caused their bubble to burst Selection Sunday.

“I think we were one win away from getting in [to the NCAA Tournament], whether it be the Utah game at home or Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “I think it was that close. … We’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves.”

Instead, Cal earned one of the No. 2 seeds in the 32-team NIT field and hosts Utah Valley (20-11) at 7:30 p.m. at Haas Pavilion. Should Cal beat Utah Valley, it would play the winner of Arkansas-Indiana State.

USF (21-11) earned a No. 4 seed in the NIT and hosts No. 5 LSU (19-13) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on the Hilltop. The Dons, led by senior forward Cole Dickerson, are making their first appearance in the NIT since 2004.

A victory by USF could lead to a showdown against top-seeded SMU, a team many believed would be in the NCAA field.

“It’s quite an accomplishment for this team that has come so far this season,” USF coach Rex Walters said of being selected for the NIT.

St. Mary’s (22-11) faces a tall order in its NIT first-round matchup as it hosts Utah (21-11) and former CCSF star Delon Wright on Tuesday at 8 p.m. The winner will play either top-seeded Minnesota or eighth-seeded High Point.

St. Mary’s is 2-2 all-time in the NIT, playing in the tournament in 2009 and 2011.

The NIT semifinals and championship will be held at Madison Square Garden in New York on April 1 and 3, respectively.

— Staff, wire report

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