Kentucky is unavailable to play at home, somewhat ironically, because Rupp Arena is an NCAA Tournament site for the first weekend of play. Instead of playing at Rupp Arena which has a capacity of about 24,000 people, the Wildcats and Colonials will lock up at the Charles L. Sewall Center in Moon Township, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. The arena's listed capacity is 3,056.
Kentucky coach John Calipari was born and raised in Moon Township. Moon Area High School, Calipari's alma mater, is about a mile from the Sewall Center on Robert Morris' campus.
When Kentucky last played in the NIT in 2009, Rupp Arena was booked with the Kentucky high school state basketball tournament. It hosted the UNLV Runnin' Rebels at Memorial Coliseum, the Wildcats' former on-campus home until 1976 and current home of Kentucky's women's basketball team. Its capacity is estimated at 9,000 people. Kentucky won 70-60.
Kentucky executive associate athletics director DeWayne Peevy issued a statement Sunday night to explain the school's decision.
"We did not place a bid to host the first round of the NIT due to limited staff availability to properly host a game at Memorial Coliseum. Because the University of Kentucky is hosting the NCAA second- and third-round games at Rupp Arena on March 21 and 23, the facility was not available for a first-round NIT game. We placed a bid to host both the second round and quarterfinal games at Rupp Arena if we advance."
This time last year, Kentucky named the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament it would eventually win. The top six players from that team were drafted in the 2012 NBA draft, and the newcomers weren't able to shoulder nearly the load the class before them could. The Wildcats' season was already on life support when center Nerlens Noel tore his left ACL on Feb. 12. The team was 4-4 since then and 0-4 away from Rupp Arena.
Robert Morris earned an automatic invitation to the NIT after winning the Northeast Conference's regular-season championship. The Colonials lost to Mount St. Mary's in the NEC Tournament semifinals.
The Wildcats and Colonials play Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.