Postseason play begins for trio of state college teams

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A trio of Mississippi collegiate basketball teams will be competing for a national championship beginning tonight.

For the second straight year, Southern Miss was left out of the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament despite a school-record number of victories and a relatively high RPI.

The Golden Eagles (27-6) will instead play in the NIT, hosting Toledo (27-6) in a first-round game at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The game will not be televised, except online by ESPN3.

Southern Miss lost 88-70 to Louisiana Tech in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament on Friday night. Tournament champion Tulsa was the lone C-USA team in the field of 68, and was a 13-seed.

Southern Miss was No. 33 nationally in the most recent RPI rankings. The Golden Eagles were the highest RPI team left out of the NCAA tournament field for the second straight year.

In addition, no Mississippi teams were selected for the NCAA tournament. Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee were the lone SEC schools in the 68-team field.

The Golden Eagles are the No. 3 seed in the NIT’s Minnesota quadrant. The Southern Miss-Toledo winner faces the winner of second-seeded Missouri vs. Davidson in the second round.

Ole Miss (19-14) did not earn an NIT bid. In addition to Missouri, Georgia, LSU and Arkansas also made the 32-team field out of the SEC.

Also from Conference USA, Louisiana Tech earned an NIT bid. Middle Tennessee State, one of four teams that tied for the regular-season C-USA title, was left out of the NIT.

Toledo enters the NIT with a 27-6 record. The Rockets have won four of their last five games.

Both the Southern Miss women as well as the Mississippi State women were selected for the Women’s NIT, and both will begin play at home Thursday night.