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UMass to meet Mississippi State in NIT

3/12/2012

While UMass was one missed shot from making the Atlantic-10 final and having a chance at the Big Dance, the Minutemen will play on in the NIT, facing Mississippi State on Tuesday night in Starkville, Miss. at 7 p.m.

The game will be televised live on ESPN2.

UMass, a No. 5 seed, draws a Bulldogs team that was one of the last six teams left out of the NCAA field.

Mississippi is 21-11 on the season and finished 8-8 in the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs, who lost six of their last eight games, are led by first team All-SEC performers Dee Bost (15.6 ppg, 5.3 apg) and Arnett Moultrie (15.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg).

In making the case for and against five NCAA "snubs," ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan writes the following:

Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-11, 8-8 SEC; RPI: 73; SOS: 87)

What the committee would say: We care about the entire body of work. We really do. But we also reserve the right to evaluate a team as it currently is, not as it was earlier in the season, and the bottom line is this: The Bulldogs collapsed down the stretch. MSU lost six of its final eight games, including two games to Georgia, one to LSU and one to Auburn. We watch teams play, and when we watched Rick Stansbury's, we saw a disjointed, disinterested bunch who looked ripe for early upset. Besides, it's not like the body of work is overwhelming. MSU has two good wins -- over Alabama and at Vanderbilt -- and really not much else. And that 73 RPI? Yeah, that's not good.

What the fans would say: Oh ... it ... we ... we have no response. That was perfect.

At 22-11 overall, UMass finished tied for fifth in the Atlantic 10 regular season and won 20 games for the first time since 2008. The Minutemen lost 84-80 to eventual tournament champ St. Bonaventure in the semifinals on Saturday.

This will mark the first meeting between UMass and Mississippi State, who both appeared in the 1996 NCAA Final Four.

CLICK HERE for more on the NIT field.