Arkansas Nabs NIT Berth

Arkansas will be making its first post-season basketball appearance since 2008 when the Razorbacks (21-11) host Indiana State (23-10) Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in an NIT opening round game.

It is certainly not the Big Dance they were hoping for, but the Razorbacks will at least be playing post-season basketball for the first time since 2008.

Arkansas (21-11) is a third-seed in the 77th annual NIT and will host sixth-seeded Indiana State (23-10) Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena.

The game – which will be televised by ESPN – will be the first match-up of the two since Larry Bird and the top-seeded Sycamores beat Sidney Moncrief and the second-seeded Razorbacks 73-71 in the 1979 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Final.

"It's another step in the right direction," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said on the NIT selection show on ESPNU. "We talk about building and building in the right direction and we're taking the right steps.

"When you look at the progression of this program, we are used to being in post-season play," Anderson added. "We are used to playing for championships…We will be in a championship tournament – the NIT.

"We are looking forward to it and we will get our team prepared and keep moving in the right direction," Anderson continued.

Anderson played for NIT winner Tulsa in 1981 and is 7-1 all-time in the event as a player and coach.

The last time the Razorbacks were in the NIT was 1997 when it advanced to New York City before losing to Michigan in the semifinals and UConn in the third-place game.

Indiana State was the runner-up to Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference and lost to the Shockers 81-69 in the conference tournament.

They have four players averaging in double figures in 6-4 senior guard Jake Odum (13.2), 6-5, 215-pounds senior forward Manny Arop (10.9), 6-6, 215-pound sophomore forward Khristian Smith (10.5) and 6-9, 230-pound senior Justin Gant (10.2) while 6-3 senior guard Dawon Cummings (9.8) just missed making it five.

The winner of the Arkansas-Indiana State game will play the winner of a Wednesday night battle between second-seeded California and Utah Valley.

If the Razorbacks and Bears both win, that game will be in California sometime between Thursday and Sunday.

An Arkansas win and Utah Valley victory would have that game being played in Fayetteville.

Three wins in the event would mean a trip to New York City for the semifinals on April 1.

"We're excited to be back in the postseason and have an opportunity to continue our season," Anderson said in a press release. "Our guys played well down the stretch with wins in eight of the last 11 games so hopefully we can continue to grow this program in the NIT."

Arkansas appeared headed for a berth in the NCAA Tournament – winning six straight games and eight of nine – but lost its regular season finale to Alabama and its SEC Tournament opener to South Carolina.

Those two teams were 124 and 137, respectively, in the RPI.

"We had won eight out of nine games and playing in the SEC, which we think is a great conference," Anderson said. "…But we didn't do what we needed to do to be in the NCAA so that is going to be a lesson four our team to learn."

The NIT has 13 automatic qualifiers – teams that won their conference and were not given berths in the NCAA Tournament.

Only three SEC teams were included in the NCAA Tournament while the league has Arkansas, Missouri, LSU and Georgia in the NIT.

Notable teams left out of both the NCAA and NIT both were Marquette, Maryland and Indiana.





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