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Hofstra to face George Washington in NIT

Hofstra's Rokas Gustys looks up at scoreboard in

Hofstra's Rokas Gustys looks up at scoreboard in final seconds of his team's overtime loss to UNC Wilmington in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game in Baltimore, Monday, March 7, 2016. Credit: Steve Ruark

The Hofstra men’s basketball team did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but the fifth-seeded Pride did earn a trip to Washington, D.C. to play fourth-seeded George Washington on Wednesday night in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

The game will be carried on ESPN3 at 8 p.m.

“Very, very excited,’’ Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said Sunday night. “We all know the NCAA Tournament is the ultimate goal, but I’ll tell you what, so many great, great teams were part of [the NIT], so we’re very proud.’’

One of the most talked about teams is Monmouth, which nearly made the NCAA Tournament and is a No. 1 seed in the NIT. If Hofstra (24-9) beats GW (23-10), it will face the winner of the Monmouth-Bucknell game.

This will mark Hofstra’s fifth trip to the NIT after appearances in 1999, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The Pride advanced to the quarterfinal round in 2006.

Hofstra’s 24 victories are the second-most in school history since the program began Division I play in 1972-73. The 2005-06 and 2000-01 teams each won 26 games and the 1999-2000 team won 24.

Hofstra earned an automatic bid to the NIT by winning a share of the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title. It became clear that the Pride would not be chosen for The Big Dance when North Carolina Wilmington, which beat Hofstra in overtime to win the CAA Tournament title, was picked as the 13th seed in the NCAA Tournament against fourth-seeded Duke.

“We should have been in the discussion,’’ Mihalich said. “The talking heads should have been talking about us. Why weren’t we talked about, because we had a great, great year.’’

But Hofstra is ready to move forward. “As [former Princeton coach] Pete Carril said, ‘It’s March and we’re still practicing,’ ’’ Mihalich said. “I told the guys that. There’s so many teams, so many players that would be doing anything to still be playing ball. And we’re playing.

“We’re confident. It’s all about matchups. We got to get to work on GW now and see what they’re good at. GW’s a very good team. I’d like to think we’re a very good team, too.’’

George Washington, a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, is led by forwards Tyler Cavanaugh (16.4 points, 7.4 rebounds) and Kevin Larsen (11.7, 8.5) and guard Patricio Garino (13.9 ppg).

Hofstra hopes to continue its season for prominent seniors Juan’ya Green (17.6) and Ameen Tanksley (16.0). “You can still have goals and you can still have dreams,’’ Mihalich said. “How about if you’re a New York team. The dream, the goal to get to Madison Square Garden to play in the NIT’’ for the semifinal and final round.

“That’s something to be excited about. One step at a time.’’

New York Sports