Sampson says NIT an investment for the future

Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson talks about OU's season and their upcoming matchup with LSU in the first round of the NIT. Tip-off for Wednesday's LSU game is set for 8:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on SoonerSports.com or by calling 405-325-2424. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

NORMAN, Okla. — For the first time in the Kelvin Sampson era the Sooners are not in the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners accepted a bid to play in the NIT and will play in the first round of that tournament Wednesday night at the Lloyd Noble Center against LSU. Today, Coach Sampson sat down with OUInsider.com to talk about the season and the upcoming matchup with LSU.

JH: Coach, I know you are disappointed that you didn't get a bid to the NCAA, but knowing you as I do you will work to get a major positive out of playing in the NIT, won't you?

KS: "We are disappointed because of the lofty expectations that we have for our program. That is where expectations start with us — is from within the program. We have had our chances though James. I watched the selection show just like everybody else and I knew that our name would not be called. I also knew that this team had won 19 games. Look back at the Colorado game, Missouri game and both Texas games, and maybe even some other games that I am not even thinking about, and realize how close we were for getting into the NCAA Tournament on a team that had to face a little more adversity than your normal team.

"It just wasn't with Kevin (Bookout) going out and Jabahri (Brown) getting suspended at the end of the year, it was all the other things that have happened to this team, yet they were right there battling to the last five seconds of the Texas game for a chance to go to the NCAA's.

"I thought the committee did a good job of selecting the teams. The only disappointment that I saw was that I would have liked to have seen Colorado get in, since they finished fourth in our league at 10-6. However, we still get an opportunity to keep playing. Even thought this will not be in the NCAA Tournament it will be a tournament type atmosphere and we have LSU coming in here on Wednesday night at 8:30. It will be a good a good opportunity for our kids to play against a quality opponent. LSU is a good team and a team that like us had some tough breaks this year. We are looking forward to playing them."

JH: The matchup with LSU is a good one. And for those that follow recruiting, they will recognize a number of players on their team because you also recruited them didn't you?

KS: "They have two kids in Antonio Hudson and Tack Minor that were had on our list at some point during the recruiting process, and we know they are very good players.

"Brandon Bass was the SEC Freshman of the Year. Drew (Lavender) was one of the top freshmen in our league, but Brandon Bass was the Freshman of the Year in the SEC. He is about 6'8, 240 and just a monster inside. He will cause problems for us, but he causes problems for everybody.

"Darrel Mitchell is another kid that we have seen a lot of. He is an outstanding combo guard much like Lawrence (McKenzie). I think Darrel is a sophomore and he is a great outside shooter.

"This team will pose problems for us just like every team will just because of our depth and only two post players that are available for us. Our last three halves of basketball, the last half against Nebraska and the game against Texas, shows that our kids are really competing hard at this stage in the season."

JH: Your team had a great effort against Texas and you won over a lot of people with that effort. Don't you think that game, against tremendous odds, will leave a lasting great impression for your program?

KS: "The thing we always tell our kids is that we have been punched in the stomach, but that is not an excuse. We have to go out and compete hard anyway. A free throw here or a free throw there, or just one made basket there and that Texas game could have turned out a whole lot differently. I was very pleased with our effort."

JH: I know you hope to have a big crowd so that you can also host a second round game, right?

JH: "Tickets are $10.00 dollars and $5.00 dollars so we priced them affordably. If we get a great crowd then there is a great chance we will host a second round game. The winner of our game will play the winner of Michigan and Missouri. There is a lot to play for at this time of year and we feel blessed that we still have a chance to play. Every day that we can still go to practice with this team is just a huge investment for next year."

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