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Empty dance card: Mississippi State left out of NCAA Tournament




Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University is not in the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament field.  


The tournament selection show concluded Sunday afternoon without the Bulldogs (21-11) being apart of the even for the third straight season. MSU will next play at Humphrey Coliseum after receiving a four-seed in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament against the University of Massachusetts Tuesday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. The Minutemen (22-11) was 6-8 versus the RPI Top 100 this season even with a non-conference strength of schedule ranking of 226 but also with five wins vs. NCAA tournament teams. 


"It's great for us to be back in the postseason," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "It's a first for me, and I'm happy for the kids who put in such good work this year and played with their hearts. They're excited. It's another chance to keep playing and showcase the program." 


MSU are 7-7 all-time in the NIT with its last appearance being 2010 when they defeated Jackson State in the first round but lost to North Carolina 76-74 in the second round in the Tar Heels' first appearance in Starkville. 


"Naturally, we are disappointed we are not playing in the NCAA Tournament, but at the same time we are looking forward to the NIT," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said in a university statement. 


The Bulldogs were likely one of the final teams out of the NCAA tournament field after losing six of its last eight games to finish the season. This morning ESPN bracket expert Joe Lunardi had switch Mississippi State from the last team in to the first team out after switching his thoughts on Drexel University's tournament hopes.  


The Bulldogs lost six of their last eight games, including a 71-61 loss to Georgia in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament Thursday. 


"I'm thankful for another opportunity, especially after leaving the SEC Tournament on a sour note," MSU senior guard Dee Bost said in a university statement. "As a senior, I'm looking forward to playing at least one more game at the Hump." 


Stansbury did not take questions from reporters Sunday night and Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin did not return messages from The Dispatch seeking comment. 


The committee listed MSU as the fifth team outside of the 68-team NCAA field during a broadcast on truTV. The top seed of the bracket is Seton Hall University, who MSU will likely face in the second round of the NIT if the Bulldogs beat UMass, will host the winner of the second round game if they can defeat Stony Brook Tuesday.  


The Bulldogs have not been in the NCAA tournament since 2009 when they won the Southeastern Conference Tournament. After New Year's Day, MSU was ranked as high as No. 15 in the Associated Press poll but the tailspin in February put them on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble.  


"They just never got it going," CBS college basketball analyst Bill Raftery said. "It's one of those teams that never got on a roll. We thought they could do better but they never did." 


The NIT berth is MSU's 18th post-season appearance (10 NCAA and 6 NIT) and 11th with Stansbury at the helm but some fans are restless after the Bulldogs  


"Mississippi State was very impressive early," CBS/TNT basketball analyst Steve Kerr said. "They just collapsed late. I don't think it helps when you lose six out of your last eight. You have to, at some level, take some momentum going into the tournament...and they just looked like they were heading south." 


Tickets will be $20 for Bulldog Club members and general public and $4 for students. Tickets can also be purchased at the ticket office beginning at 8 a.m., Monday. There is a $5 processing fee for each order and an additional $2 fee for Will Call pick up. Print at home orders will not be charged an additional fee. Those who purchase first- round tickets will have first option to renew their seats for subsequent rounds that are hosted by Mississippi State.  




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage. 




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