By Matthew Stevens
ATLANTA – Mississippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin confirmed Friday his office has sent in the paperwork to apply for the 2011 National Invitational Tournament.
The NIT, which consists of a 32-team postseason field among teams not selected to the NCAA Tournament, is an event the Bulldogs have participated in seven times in school history and making the semifinal round at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2007.
Mississippi State currently hold a 7-7 overall record in the NIT and has hosted nine games in the event.
Stricklin called the application procedure “a common practice” among schools in this situation around the end of the season but many internet projections still have Mississippi State (17-14) as a school on the outside looking in for a berth in the 2011 NIT.
The NIT, now owned by the NCAA as of 2009, guarantees a spot in its field to any team that win its regular season championship but does not win its conference tournament and therefore qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Stricklin also told The Starkville Daily News last weekend that the Bulldogs men's basketball program "is not interested" in competing in the pair of newly formed postseason tournaments (College Basketball Invitational and CollegeInsider.com Tournament).
Stricklin said in the Dudy Noble Field press box on March 5 that he's consulted with Mississippi State men's basketball head coach Rick Stansbury and the only two postseason tournaments the Bulldogs program will accept invitations to are the NCAA Tournament and National Invitational Tournament.
"I have consulted with Rick on this and I think we're on the same page on this one," Stricklin said. "We're not interested in participating in those two tournaments. Our first goal is obviously to win the SEC Tournament to get an NCAA bid and if that doesn't happen, an NIT bid would be nice but those are the options we're looking at."
The CBI, formed in 2007 by The Gazelle Group, selects 16 teams that are not selected for the NCAA Tournament or the National Invitation Tournament and have had Bowl Championship Series schools participate in the event including Virginia, Cincinnati, Washington, St. John's, Stanford and Oregon State.
The CIT, formed in 2009, is more oriented toward mid-major schools that don't make the NCAA or NIT fields.
Photo shows Arkansas coach
breaking NCAA rules
A report by CBSSports.com shows photographic evidence of Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey allegedly violating NCAA recruiting rules this past offseason.
CBSSports.com senior college basketball reporter Gary Parrish published a story describing a situation where Pelphrey made illegal contact with shown posing high school standout and top-20 recruit Archie Goodwin (a consensus top-20 national recruit) and teammate Trey Smith last December at a high school tournament in Conway, Ark.
Bylaw 126.96.36.199 states that off-campus contact cannot be made with a prospect (or his relatives or legal guardians) before July 1, following the completion of his junior year of high school. Goodwin and Smith are still in their junior years of high school.
NCAA bylaw 188.8.131.52 stating that coaches cannot make off-campus contact with recruits before July 1. The agency retained a posted photo of the Arkansas coach with two recruits prior to the deadline.
“We became aware of a potential compliance issue this (Thursday) morning regarding contact with prospective men’s basketball student-athletes,” Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long said through a statement Thursday afternoon. “The facts are as we understand them to be at this time, it would appear to be a secondary violation. Before making any final determination, we will certainly take the appropriate time to review all of the facts and then act appropriately.”
Arkansas lost Thursday night in its quarterfinal matchup in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament ending a disappointing 18-13 season where the Razorbacks suffered a third straight losing season in regular season play.
"We're certainly very sensitive of those things and take that stuff very, very seriously," Pelphrey said Thursday night following his team's loss. "It'll be looked into with regards to our compliance people, and if there's (a violation), we'll certainly cooperate and be forthcoming."
Alabama and Georgia
both in NCAA field?
The Southeastern Conference may have all but guaranteed itself another NCAA Tournament bid after the dramatic quarterfinals win by Alabama in the league tournament Friday afternoon.
The Crimson Tide (21-10) rallied from a 48-34 deficit with 7:40 left to play to tie the game with 4 seconds left in regulation.
“We were just beating ourselves at first,” Alabama freshman point guard Trevor Releford said. “Once we started just playing together and playing as a team like we should, then the game got better.”
Bracketography.com editor David Mihm told the Starkville Daily News that he has both teams in his current projected bracket as of Friday evening. .
Alabama, who won the Western Division by three games this season, has achieved the most regular season wins since the 2004-05 season when they lost in the first round to a Wisconsin-Milwaukee team led by current Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl.
While the Alabama bench exploded in a celebration after the 65-59 overtime victory, Tide head coach Anthony Grant wouldn’t comment on his squad’s at-large berth status after the win.
“Our focus is the SEC tournament,” Grant said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to compete for a championship.”
After his team’s crushing loss, Georgia head coach Mark Fox went on the campaign for his team when asked the same question.
“I think we’re a tournament team,” the Bulldogs second-year head coach said. “I don’t think we had to have this game to be in. (We have) a top 40 RPI, a top 40 schedule, a winning record away from home, a winning record in the SEC and we avoided bad losses.”
The NCAA Tournament selection committee, led by chairman and Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith, are currently in a Indianapolis hotel conference room going through the process of selecting and seeding the teams for the field of 68.
The 2011 NCAA Tournament selection show will announce the bracket at 5 p.m. on WCBI, the CBS affiliate for this area.