Rebels, Dogs miss dance, head for NIT

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

The Mississippi State and Ole Miss men’s basketball teams didn’t wind up where they’d hoped, but their seasons aren’t over yet.
The Bulldogs and Rebels did not earn NCAA tournament bids and will play in the National Invitation Tournament.
Both teams will face first-round foes that could have been in the Big Dance, too.
MSU (23-11), which lost to Kentucky, 75-74 in overtime, in the SEC Tournament title game on Sunday afternoon, earned one of the 32-team tourney’s four No. 1 seeds. The Bulldogs will play host to Jackson State (19-12) at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
The Tigers were the No. 1 seed in the SWAC Tournament but were stunned by No. 8 seed Grambling State in the first round, snapping a 13-game winning streak.
The MSU-JSU winner will earn a second-round matchup with the North Carolina-William & Mary winner. UNC (16-16) won the NCAA national title last season.
Ole Miss (21-10) earned a No. 2 seed and will play host to Troy (20-12) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Trojans lost to North Texas in the Sun Belt Conference championship game; a win would have given them an automatic NCAA bid.
The winner of this game takes on the Memphis-St. John’s winner.
Tickets are on sale today at the teams’ respective ticket offices.
As a No. 1 seed, Mississippi State is assured of hosting the first three games it would play.
MSU had hoped reaching the SEC title game and nearly beating No. 2-ranked Kentucky would convince the NCAA selection committee to grant it an at-large berth. The Bulldogs would have been in automatically with a win.
Dan Guerrero, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee chairman, said his panel looked at the “entire body of work” when considering the Bulldogs, but noted that the team’s scheduled opponents outside the SEC “weren’t that strong.”
Ole Miss saw its NCAA hopes severely damaged after losing to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.
This will be the seventh NIT appearance for MSU, and its first since 2007, when it reached the semifinals in New York City. A year later, Ole Miss reached New York and lost in the semis, too.
MSU is 6-6 all-time in NIT games, while Ole Miss is 8-6 in eight appearances.
No other SEC teams made the NIT field.
The other No. 1 NIT seeds are Arizona State, Illinois and Virginia Tech.
Second-round games will be played Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday. The quarterfinals are slated for March 23-24.
The NIT Final Four will be held March 30-April 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@djournal.com.