Two Southeastern Conference teams will be playing in the National Invitational Tournament as it kicks off tonight. The Arkansas Razorbacks will play the Indiana State Sycamores and the Missouri Tigers will be hosting the Davidson Wildcats.
The Tigers are coming off a loss against the Florida Gators in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, while Davidson lost to Western Carolina in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament.
Missouri was rewarded with a two seed in the Minneapolis region. The Tigers are led by leading scorer Jabari Brown, who was the SEC’s leading scorer in the regular season at 19.8 points per game.
Missouri head coach Frank Haith says not getting in the NCAA Tournament is a little discouraging.
“We’re like every team, and when you’re on that bubble and you don’t get into the NCAA Tournament it’s disappointing,” Haith said. “But we are a young team; we only have one senior, so my approach is guys it’s a chance for us to continue to grow and get better as a team, a lot of teams have used this tournament (NIT) as a springboard.”
Haith adds that having a good nonconference schedule is key for teams, so they have a chance to get into the NCAA tournament.
“Everybody can talk about scheduling in doing all those things, but I think it boils down to one thing, and that’s winning in the non-league,” Haith said. “And when you get into league play, our RPI is where they need to be, but it’s just winning games.”
Davidson on the other hand played a nonconference schedule with games against teams like Duke, Virginia, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wichita State. Coach Haith says playing a team who had a nonconference schedule like Davidson, is a tough test for his team.
“They played a tremendous schedule, playing Duke, Carolina, Virginia, Wichita State; they played pretty much everybody,” Haith said. “We understand it’s going to be a tall task for us, but we’re excited about playing in the postseason.”
The Arkansas Razorbacks were knocked off in the second round of the SEC Tournament by South Carolina. The Razorbacks will now turn their attention to Indiana State, who lost to Wichita State in the finals of the Missouri Valley Conference. Arkansas was awarded the three seed in the Region One side of the bracket, while Indiana State is the sixth seed.
Razorback head coach Mike Anderson says his team is ready to be tested by the Sycamores.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge against an Indiana State team that’s very balanced, won 23 games in the Missouri Valley conference,” Anderson said. “They’re a team that can shoot the basketball, have a veteran squad, so it should be an entertaining game to say the least.”
Indiana State ranked fifth in the Missouri Valley in field goal percentage, shooting the ball at over a 45 percent clip and had four players who averaged double digit scoring in the regular season.
Anderson says that playing in the postseason can have a big impact on the future of the team.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for not only our players, this team, but also for our program as we move forward,” Anderson said. “I think the foundation we know is in place, and now let’s build on it.”
Tipoff for both games is set for 9pm.
For audio on the coaches click below: