The 32-team National Invitation Tournament opening round saw Kentucky get knocked off by Robert Morris. The top seeded and defending national champion Wildcats’ loss may be the tournament’s biggest upset in history.
Day two of the first round in the NIT tips off tonight, featuring yet another SEC team – No. 2 seeded Tennessee. The Vols fell short against Alabama 58-48 in the SEC Tournament, crushing their chances of entering the NCAA Tournament. For Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin, it’s disappointing slipping off NCAA Tournament selection, despite how well his team has performed in their conference schedule this season.
However, basketball continues for the Vols. Though this isn’t the position the team originally saw themselves in, Martin said they have to get past that dissappointment and into the right mindset as they enter the NIT.
Tennessee will take on seventh seeded Mercer tonight. The Bears finished first in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 14-4 record, but fell in the A-Sun title game. Falling short of the NCAA tournament themselves, Mercer knocked off Florida State and Alabama; teams Tennessee was just 1-2 against this year. Led by senior guard Travis Smith, the Bears are stacked with experience and depth. Martin recognizes the talent his team will be facing against a veteran Bears team.
Mercer will face a tough battle in the paint against Tennessee sophomore forward Jarnell Strokes, who is just a half rebound from averaging a double-double this season. The winner of tonight’s game will move on to face the winner of the BYU-Washington matchup. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.