Boatright, in a moment of truth, said he didn't "come back to play in the NIT."
The Huskies, thanks to Sunday's loss to SMU find themselves tonight playing in the NIT against Arizona State.
No one wants to be here, but the NIT has its benefits. At least to the UConn program, an NIT berth hasn't affected the future at all.
UConn and the 1988 NIT championship still hold a fond place in the hearts of fans. It's been a place where great players and great teams have had their first taste of postseason. In fact, a NIT bid is usually followed by several years of success at UConn. That's been the history in modern times for the Huskies, who will make their 13th
Every five years or so, the Huskies end up in the NIT and have been better for it.
Let's look at recent history:
1988 NIT (Championship win over Ohio State)
Following Year: NIT
1989 NIT (NIT quarterfinal loss to UAB)
Following Year: NCAA Elite Eight
1993 NIT (first round loss to Jackson State)
Following Year: Sweet 16
1997 NIT (Third place)
Following Year: Elite 8
2001 NIT (second round loss to Detroit)
Following year: Elite 8
2010 NIT (second round loss to Virginia Tech)
Following year: NCAA national championshipUConn enters tonight's game against Arizona State with nine underclassmen and Boatright. While there are always a chance that other players could leave for the NBA such as Amida Brimah, Danile Hamilton and Rodney Purvis, the most liley scenario is for that core to return.
That makes however long the Huskies' run is in the NIT an important stepping stone for next year.
UConn coach Kevin Ollie, who played in the NIT as a sophomore, was miffed at a question following Sunday's loss about the value of the NIT.
"Post-season play. You lose, you go home," Ollie said of the value. "That's what you get out of it, it's experience...There's no next day. So these guys are learning from it. If it's NIT or NCAA, they going to learn from it and they going to come back better from it.
"I am still coach them the way I coach them. They still going to play the way they going to play. We've got to make better plays. We've got to be more poised. I can break the game down, we got the game down in five, we missed a defensive rebound and we fouled with three seconds on the clock three times. Three times. So we got to be poised in those situations."
There is plenty of value in these games. Ollie played in the game as a sophomore and went to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight as a junior and senior.
UConn's first national championship team core of Richard Hamilton, Kevin Freeman and Ricky Moore played in the NIT before their two deep runs in the NCAAs. The year before Kemba Walker's NCAA run in 2011, the Huskies were bounced out at Virginia Tech.
At minimum, extra games for a young team is never a bad thing.
The Huskies have Arizona State tonight and then, if they win, at Richmond in the second round. The Huskies haven't played a game at MSG this year for the first time in nearly three decades. To keep the streak going would take a run to the NIT semifinals.
It's not where UConn wanted to be at the beginning of the season, but that doesn't mean all is lost.