There's no doubt Saint Mary's felt jilted when they were left out of the NCAA Tournament.
But now the Gaels (30-5) have embraced their entry into the NIT and after beating Washington 85-81 on Monday are only one win away from earning a trip to New York and Madison Square Garden.
Standing in their way is Utah, (22-11, third place in the Pac-12). The Utes took care of business by defeating LSU 95-71 on Monday.
Next up, Utah heads to Moraga, Calif., for a pivotal meeting against No. 25 Saint Mary's on Wednesday at McKeon Pavilion, where the Gaels are 17-1.
Common themes connect the programs. Naturally, each would rather be in the NCAA Tournament, both are hoping to extend their season for the seniors on their team and each hopes to use the NIT as a springboard for the future.
And both have a healthy respect for one another, especially after having met in a closed scrimmage in Salt Lake City before the start of the season.
"We scrimmaged them this year," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "I haven't watched them all year but we played them early on and know their personnel. I'm familiar with their program and they are tough, physical and well coached."
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak described his team's performance in the October scrimmage as 30 minutes of "pretty good basketball and 10 minutes of "not so good" play leading to a loss.
When they play this time, the stakes will be much higher.
Krystkowiak said the Gaels probably would be a Sweet 16 team if they had received an NCAA Tournament bid.
"They've got a lot of pieces and a lot of veteran players, and are a well-coached team," Krystkowiak told reporters.
To the Utah coach's point, the Gaels put on a diverse and dangerous offensive display against the Huskies. Jordan Ford led the way with 26 points. Evan Fitzner came off the bench and tossed in 20.
West Coast Conference Player of the Year Jock Landale and Calvin Hermanson each contributed 14 points as the Gaels led by 16 points in the third quarter but had to hang on down the stretch.
Throughout the season, the Gaels leaned on their Big Three -- Landale, Hermanson and guard Emmett Naar, the school's all-time assist leader. But Ford has wedged his way into the mix with solid play. In the two NIT games, he has scored 45 points.