Niagara Gazette — The Niagara men's basketball team has met Maryland once before, in the championship game of the 1972 National Invitation Tournament.
Forty-one years later, the Purple Eagles have been invited to try and avenge that loss.
Niagara drew a No. 7 seed in the 32-team NIT and will play at No. 2 Maryland at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the 17,950-seat Comcast Center. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
"The NIT has a storied tradition and we are so proud to be a part of it," coach Joe Mihalich said following Sunday night's subdued selection show gathering in the Purple Eagles' locker room. "If you do the math, there are 68 teams in the NCAA tournament and then 32 in the NIT. To be a top 100 team with such a young team is something to be proud of."
Niagara (19-13) received an automatic bad to the NIT after winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season championship with one of the 50 youngest playing rotations in college basketball.
This will be the Purple Eagles' 14th appearance in the NIT and third in 15 years under Mihalich. In 2004, Niagara beat Troy State in the opening round before losing to Nebraska. The 2009 team lost in the first round to Rhode Island. All-time, Niagara is 9-14 in NIT games. Three of those wins came in 1972, when Niagara defeated UTEP, Princeton and St. John's before losing to Maryland, 100-69, in the final.
Maryland is 11-6 all-time in the NIT, with its last appearance coming in 2008. The Terrapins (22-12) advanced to the Atlantic Coast Conference semifinals with a win over Duke last week.
"We're excited about this," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "We have a young team and we're playing a lot of young players. This is a great opportunity for us to keep playing and we're looking forward to it. Our coaching staff and players are excited about the NIT."
"It's going to be a good matchup," Niagara guard Juan'ya Green said. "We like our chances. We're both young teams and I think it's going to be a good game."
The matchup will provide a homecoming for Mihalich and junior guard Malcolm Lemmons.
"It's going to be fun for me because I'm about a half hour from the Maryland campus," said Lemmons, a Washington, D.C. native.
Mihalich began his coaching career at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., working under Hall of Famer Morgan Wooten. He spent five years at DeMatha and has regularly recruited players from the area to play at Niagara.