Bulldogs draw UMass for NIT opener

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – There was no celebration at Humphrey Coliseum on Sunday, just quiet resignation.
Mississippi State’s NCAA tournament hopes were dashed, as the selection committee decided the Bulldogs hadn’t done enough to earn a spot in the field of 68. Instead, they will play at least one more game at the Hump, as a No. 4 seed in the NIT.
MSU (21-11) will host Massachusetts (22-11), of the Atlantic 10 Conference, at 6 p.m. Tuesday in a first-round game. It will be the first meeting between the schools.
There was no press conference with coach Rick Stansbury. He said in a statement, “Naturally, we are disappointed we are not playing in the NCAA tournament, but at the same time we are looking forward to the NIT.”
This is MSU’s fifth NIT appearance under Stansbury, where he has a record of 6-4, including 5-1 at home. State was last in this 32-team tourney in 2010, where it defeated Jackson State and then lost to North Carolina.
“I’m thankful for another opportunity, especially after leaving the SEC Tournament on a sour note,” MSU senior point guard Dee Bost said in a statement.
MSU had been holding out hope for an NCAA bid even after losing to Georgia in the first round of the SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs have lost six of their last eight games, which included a five-game losing streak, and were among several teams with less-than-stellar profiles.
Despite its poor finish, the NCAA selection committee was still considering MSU as late as Sunday morning, according to Greg Shaheen of the NCAA. A knee injury to starting guard Rodney Hood during a loss to Kentucky on Feb. 21 was factored into the committee’s decision-making process, he said.
“Mississippi State was there for the taking when the final field was set. Certainly their rampésumampé put them right there,” Shaheen said.
He added that St. Bonaventure’s win over Xavier in the Atlantic 10 title game Sunday took a spot away that could have gone to any one of six teams, including MSU.
“At the end of the day, however, Mississippi State was just on the outside of that 37 at-large list,” said the NCAA’s David Worlock.
If MSU beats UMass, it will play the winner of No. 1 seed Seton Hall versus No. 8 Stony Brook.