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NIT field highlighted by Monmouth, St. Bonaventure

The top seeds in the National Invitation Tournament are Monmouth, St. Bonaventure, South Carolina and Valparaiso.

The first four teams left out of the NCAA tournament automatically receive No. 1 seeds in the NIT, a practice that began last year. San Diego State and Saint Mary's were among other schools relegated to the NIT after their NCAA hopes were dashed Sunday.

"It's all politics. That's all it is. At the end of the day, we knew our résumé was better than some of the teams that got picked, but we still had no control over it," St. Bonaventure senior guard Marcus Posley said. "We've just got to make the best of the NIT."

With the NCAA selection committee favoring power-conference programs over mid-majors that also sat on the bubble, a record 15 automatic qualifiers ended up in the 32-team NIT field.

Regular-season conference champions that don't make the NCAA tournament are guaranteed spots in the NIT, so there were only 17 at-large berths available.

"This was a very challenging selection process for a number of reasons and may be the most challenging since I've been a part of this process," said Reggie Minton, chair of the NIT selection committee, in a statement. "There were considerably more than 17 teams that were worthy of consideration."

Valparaiso (26-6) went 16-2 in Horizon League play, winning the regular-season title by three games, but lost to Green Bay in overtime in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

"We thought we were built for an at-large team. If you look at our numbers, our numbers were better than a lot of teams in the tournament, so we thought we'd get in," Crusaders coach Bryce Drew said. "There's some letdown when you see some of the teams that got in and you compare your numbers against theirs. Obviously, we have a great opportunity in front of us because I don't think Valpo has ever been a No. 1 seed before."

One notable absence from the NIT will be LSU (19-14) and freshman sensation Ben Simmons, considered the nation's top NBA prospect. Tigers coach Johnny Jones said his team would not participate in a postseason tournament after being left out of the NCAA field.

"They were definitely under consideration," Minton said in an interview on ESPNU. "We didn't learn until late this afternoon that they weren't going to play. ... That was their decision."

After the first three rounds are played on campus sites, the semifinals and championship game will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York for the 79th year.

Monmouth, with its popular "bench mob" and wins over power programs Notre Dame, UCLA and Georgetown, hosts Patriot League champion Bucknell in its NIT opener Wednesday night.

Like many of the high seeds in the NIT, the Hawks were disappointed to be passed over by the NCAA selection committee. But coach King Rice was diplomatic in a statement released by the school, saying his team is excited to continue its season.

Valparaiso will open against Texas Southern; St. Bonaventure against Wagner; and South Carolina against High Point -- all at home.

High majors in the tournament include second-seeded Florida, third-seeded Georgia, Virginia Tech and Washington, and fourth-seeded Florida State and Georgia Tech.