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NIT bracket 2014: Cal basketball hosts Utah Valley on Wednesday; Arkansas & SMU loom

Can Cal get to Madison Square Garden?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The California Golden Bears will get the chance to host at least two NIT tournament games if they decide to play up to their potential. But they do not have an easy bracket to get to Madison Square Garden.

Cal starts with WAC regular season champions Utah Valley on Wednesday night. You can watch online on ESPN3. They then have a Maui Invitational rematch looming with Arkansas (if they can get past Indiana State). In all likelihood, they will then have to travel to Dallas and try and upset an SMU team that was the first team out of the NCAA tournament.

This isn't an easy bracket. Cal should be able to beat Utah Valley, but this could one of those dangerous "no one's motivated to play" games. Additionally, rematches are never fun, particularly against an athletic Arkansas team that was capable of sweeping talented Kentucky. and was peaking near the end of the season. The good news is both of our first two games are at home, we generally play really well against non-conference opponents at home, and we should have a good shot at getting to the quarterfinals.

There the road gets really difficult, as SMU possesses one of the best defenses in the country, has played Louisville and Virginia close, and beaten Cincinnati and UConn. Our best hope for getting to New York City would be an upset from UC Irvine, San Francisco or LSU.

UPDATE: Quotes from Monty.