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USF draws NC State in first round of NIT

In its first postseason appearance since the 2001-02 season, USF has earned a No. 3 seed in the National Invitational Tournament and will host N.C. State in the first round Tuesday at 8 p.m.

The Bulls (20-12), who lost to Georgetown 69-49 in the second round of the Big East tournament on Wednesday, join fellow Big East teams Connecticut (four seed), Seton Hall (four seed), St. John’s (six seed) and Cincinnati (two seed) in the field of 32.

“We’re excited to be part of a great NIT field,” coach Stan Heath said in a statement Sunday. “Our team is looking forward to a great challenge in front of us, which is a good N.C. State team that is playing very well right now.

“We feel fortunate to be playing another home game, and we are hopeful our fans come out and give us that extra ‘sixth man’ to help us play against a very good team.”

N.C. State (19-15), which has won five of its last seven games, reached the semifinals of the ACC tournament and has beaten Duke, Florida State and Clemson (twice) this season despite finishing second to last in ACC conference play.

If the Bulls get past the Wolfpack, they’ll play the winner of UAB and Coastal Carolina later this week.

USF is in the midst of its most successful season since joining the Big East conference in 2005. The Bulls finished .500 in the Big East with nine conference wins, a year after finishing just 4-12 in conference play.

The Bulls, who beat then-No. 7 Georgetown on the road and then-No. 17 Pittsburgh at home in consecutive games, were on the NCAA tournament bubble before losing 74-58 to St. John’s on Feb. 20.

USF is led by Junior guard Dominique Jones, who was second in the Big East with 21.3 points per game this season. Other teams in USF’s bracket include top-seeded Mississippi State and fourth-seeded North Carolina, which won the national championship last year. Tuesday’s game will be broadcas