The CBS Selection Show is over, the NCAA tournament field is set, and Mississippi State won't be dancing for the third consecutive year.
Instead, the Bulldogs (21-11) will play in the NIT. They're a No. 4 seed and will host No. 5 seed UMass (22-11) on Tuesday at 6 p.m. (ESPN2). If State wins, it will face the winner of Stony Brook and Seton Hall, which is a No. 1 seed.
This is the second time MSU has missed out three straight years under 14th-year coach Rick Stansbury – it fell short in 1999, 2000 and 2001, Stansbury's first three seasons on the job. He's led this program to six NCAA tournament appearances and now five NIT appearances.
“Naturally, we are disappointed we are not playing in the NCAA Tournament, but at the same time we are looking forward to the NIT," Stansbury said in a release. "UMass had a great year and is playing extremely well in a very competitive conference. They are very talented and the thing that stands out is how deep they are."
MSU last reached the NIT in 2010, when it lost to North Carolina in the second round. Stansbury is 6-4 in NIT games, including 5-1 at home.
MSU still had a good shot at making the field entering the SEC Tournament, but a first-round loss to Georgia dropped the Bulldogs out of several bracket projections. It was the second loss in as many meetings this season to Georgia, which is 15-17 and finished 11th in the league.
The first loss to UGA began a five-game losing streak for the Bulldogs, who have lost six of their last eight games. A large field of teams with similar profiles kept State in the discussion through the weekend, and many bracketologists were agonizing who to include and who to leave out.
Apparently it was a close call for MSU. In a conference call, NCAA officials said State was part of a pool of teams that was in consideration as late as Sunday mornng. St. Bonaventure beating Xavier for the Atlantic 10 title made it harder for those teams to get in – Xavier still got an at-large bid, while winning the A-10 tourney was St. Bonnie's only path to the Big Dance.
"The (selection) committee woke up this morning with an interest in kind of making sure that the last selections were exactly where they wanted to be. And Mississippi State was still in that discussion," the NCAA's Greg Shaheen said.
His colleague, David Worlock, added, "And Mississippi State was a difficult one for the committee because, as they did have some quality wins, they had a great first half against Kentucky a few weeks ago, had one of the players get injured (Rodney Hood), missed the second half, missed the next game against Alabama. All of that was factored into the consideration.
"At the end of the day, however, Mississippi State was just on the outside of that 37 at‑large list."
Two teams in a similarly precarious position as MSU were BYU and Iona, and both those teams were awarded 13 seeds and will play each other in a First Four game in the West Region. That was the second region announced during the selection show, and at that point you could tell things weren't looking good for MSU. Another notable matchup is Cal and USF in a Midwest First Four game.
So now we wait to see where MSU lands in the NIT bracket. That will be revealed at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.