They made more progress toward that goal than they have before, but still not enough.
Ole Miss defeated Auburn 68-54 in the first round, Tennessee 77-72 in overtime in the quarterfinals, then lost 65-53 to eventual tournament champion Vanderbilt in the semifinals on Saturday.
Freshman point guard Jarvis Summers led the Rebels in New Orleans with 14.6 points a game. Murphy Holloway averaged a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Looking ahead: The Rebels will play in the NIT for the fifth time in six seasons under Andy Kennedy.
Who's hot: Murphy Holloway posted double doubles the first two nights in New Orleans and averaged a double-double for the tournament with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Who's not: Nick Williams came up big in a first round win against Auburn with 22 points, but was just a combined 2-for-16 shooting against Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Bottom Line: It will be interesting to see what level of motivation the Rebels carry into the NIT. They were giddy with excitement and opportunity after the quarterfinal win over the Vols, and they've seen the NIT before.
The motivation question was the same line of thought, however, after Ole Miss lost by 13 points to Tennessee in Knoxville to fall to 5-8 in the SEC. The Rebels rallied and played their way to the cusp of an NCAA bid. Can they pick themselves up and play hard again?
Mississippi State (21-11) Looking back: MSU entered the SEC Tournament as the No. 6 seed and needed to play its way into the NCAA tournament. It lost to 11th-seeded Georgia on Thursday, however, 61-51.
Looking ahead: The Bulldogs are headed to the NIT for the second time in three years. They’re a No. 4 seed and will host No. 5 seed UMass at 6 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN2. The Minutemen (22-11) hail from the Atlantic 10 Conference, where they finished fifth with a 9-7 mark.
Who’s hot: Sophomore Jalen Steele scored a team-high 19 points against Georgia, making 6 of 12 shots and 4 of 9 from 3-point range. Over his last three halves of basketball, Steele has scored 31 points while making 9 of 15 shots.
Who’s not: Forward Renardo Sidney had just four points and five rebounds against Georgia. Over his last two games, the 6-foot-11 junior has totaled nine points on 3-of-9 shooting. His scoring average has dipped to 9.9 per game.
Bottom line: The Bulldogs finished poorly, losing six of their last eight games, including five in a row. Of those six losses, only two came against NCAA tournament teams. MSU was once ranked as high as No. 15 in the country. The question now is whether the players can find the motivation to take the NIT seriously.