Bulldogs to see rule changes for NIT

MSU men's coach Ben Howland
Staff Writer

When Mississippi State tips off against Nebraska on Wednesday night at Humphrey Coliseum in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament, It will quite literally be a different kind of game for the Bulldogs.

The NIT will feature four rules modifications that are not the norm from what MSU and the rest of the field saw during the regular season. The changes include playing four 10-minute quarters instead of two 20-minute halves and a moving back of the 3-point line.

It’s not unusual for the NCAA to use the NIT to test out potential longterm college basketball rules adjustments. In the past, the NIT has tested out other things such as the restricted area arc under each basket and the 30-second shot clock, both of which were adopted into official rules.

“I think it’s fine,” Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland said of this year’s NIT rules changes. “(The NIT) does this every year, so we’ll do whatever they ask us to do.”

Along with playing four 10-minute quarters, teams in the NIT will shoot two free throws beginning with the fifth foul of each quarter. As for the 3-point line moving back, it will be extended by approximately 1 foot and 8 inches to the same distance used by the International Basketball Federation for international competition (22 feet, 1.75 inches).

Other changes include the widening of the free-throw lane from 12 feet to 16 feet, which is consistent with the width used by the NBA. The shot clock rules will also be different, as it will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound as opposed to the full 30 seconds.

Weatherspoon’s absence
creates opportunities

Mississippi State All-Southeastern Conference Freshman Team guard Nick Weatherspoon isn’t expected to play in Wednesday night’s game against Nebraska as he recovers from a hip contusion suffered in an SEC Tournament game against Tennessee on Friday.

That means the Bulldogs will be leaning more heavily on a host of other players to pick up the slack of Weatherspoon, who is the team’s second-leading scorer (11.1 points per game) and arguably State’s best defender.
“Obviously Tyson (Carter), Eli (Wright), then Xavian (Stapleton), who will play some minutes at the three as well, those will be the guys (most impacted by Weatherspoon’s absence),” Howland said. “It also means KeyShawn (Feazell) will get some more minutes at the four where in the last few games he has been playing the backup five.”

Though Weatherspoon almost assuredly won’t play Wednesday, Howland said it hasn’t been ruled out that Weatherspoon might can return to action should MSU advance further in the NIT.

Datcher missing time

MSU backup center E.J. Datcher didn’t play in either of the Bulldogs’ two SEC Tournament games last weekend. However Howland says nothing is wrong with his sophomore.

“That’s just coach’s decision,” Howland said.

Datcher has seen action in 28 of State’s 33 games this season. He has averaged 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest.