It's March, which means another Andy Kennedy-led Ole Miss team will be headed to the NIT.
The title of this is already misleading. To call this a "preview" would suggest that, upon reading this, you'd have a general idea of what's going on in the NIT, who is involved, the potential matchups, and likely outcomes. We're not going to do that, and the NIT has technically already started, so we'll just give you a brief rundown of what has happened thus far, and then look to who Ole Miss will be playing next and, if victorious, potentially in upcoming rounds. Sound good?
Here's your 2012 NIT bracket. Click to biggificate:
The #1 seeds of this year's NIT are Tennessee, Washington, Seton Hall, and Arizona. Ole Miss is a #2 seed and will face the Illinois State Redbirds in the opening round tonight (more on that later).
The tournament began last night, as we already mentioned, and already produced a giggle-inducing result, soaking wet with grade-A, German imported Schadenfreude for we Ole Miss Rebel partisans, as the Minutemen of UMASS beat Mississippi State in double overtime by a score of 101 to 96. The hopes and dreams we had of meeting the Bulldogs in Madison Square garden in the later rounds of the tournament have been dashed, along with the mental images already conjured of chubby dudes in maroon sweaters confoundedly navigating the New York City Subway system and hanging out at the Sbarro for "authentic bold New York eats."
Oh well. Sucks to be Rick Stansbury right now.
Moving on. Ole Miss plays Illinois State, as mentioned. If Ole Miss beats the Redbirds, they'll advance to face the winner of Stanford vs. Cleveland State. Also in the region are Arizona, Bucknell, Oral Roberts, and Nevada. Other teams of interest in the NIT this year are Drexel, Miami (FL), fuckin' Valpo, and Dayton. So far in this thrilling tourney, Washington as beaten UT Arlington, Northwestern has beaten Akron, Middle Tennessee has beaten Marshall, Tennessee has beaten Savannah State, Oregon has beaten LSU (by 20), and, oh yeah, State lost to UMASS.
I'll probably mention that one more time before we're through here. Thanks for your patience.
It could prove to be an interesting tournament, but ultimately it's still the "Not In the Tournament" tournament, meaning that it sucks that nobody will notice who wins. (Quick, who won last year's NIT? Who won the NIT before that? Before that?) A not-so-scientific poll of Cup readers on Twitter has confirmed my suspicions that the lot of us would much rather see this team lose in the first round of the NCAAs than win the entire daggumed NIT. Regardless, though, that's the goal at this point, and so long as we're inching our way towards it, I'll be pulling for our Rebels.
Tonight's game tips off at 8:30 PM Central in the Tad Pad. Illinois State's 20-13 record is identical to that of our Rebels, and they too made a run in Missouri Valley Conference tournament, eventually making it to the finals where they pushed current 8-seeded NCAA tournament bound Creighton into overtime before losing late.That's much more impressive than taking the second or third most talented team in your conference and losing in the first round to an underwhelming opponent, a la Mississippi State against Georgia before their loss to UMASS last night in double-overtime (okay, I'm through, I swear).
Illinois State is led by junior guard Tyler Brown and junior forward Jackie Carmichael. Brown averages 13.1 points per game whild Carmichael averages 13.8 points per game as well as 9.6 rebounds per game. As a team though, Illinois State is averaging 68.3 points per game, meaning that they could struggle somewhat against our defensively-oriented and rebound-heavy front court.
Here are two fun facts related to this particular opening matchup in the NIT: Ole Miss is 11-1 all time at home in the NIT's opening rounds, while Illinois State has never lost to an SEC opponent (they're 5-0 all time against the Southeastern Conference). If you're in town and able to make it to the Tad Pad, do so, otherwise watch it on ESPNU and join us in the open thread below.