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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tigers set to face Davidson in NIT

Mizzou will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years.

March 17, 2014

No. 2 seed Missouri will host No. 7 seed Davidson in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament Tuesday at 8 p.m.

The announcement comes after the NCAA tournament selection committee left the Tigers out of its field of 68-team field Sunday. It’s the first time since 2008 that Missouri won’t participate in the big dance.

“Obviously our goal is to play in the NCAA tournament every year, but we do have an opportunity to compete for a championship,” coach Frank Haith said. “There’s a lot of teams that have unlaced their shoes, and we get a chance to continue to practice and get better. With only one senior playing, I think it’s very important for our team to continue to play and compete for a championship.”

Missouri struggled down the stretch, losing four out of its final seven games, including losses to non-NCAA tournament teams Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers then dropped two of their final three games by 20 points or more with losses at Tennessee and against Florida in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The standard for the program is still the NCAA tournament, Haith said. He pointed out that other prominent schools like North Carolina, have dropped into the NIT field before bouncing back into the NCAA tournament.

Virginia, who reached the quarterfinals of the NIT last season, will enter the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed this year.

“When we have a chance to play in the NIT, we want to embrace it,” Haith said.

Haith also said he believes that the Southeastern Conference is undervalued nationally.

“I think our league is better than what it’s perceived to be. I do,” Haith said. “It’s unfortunate, but I think we’ll continue to do what we do.”

This will mark Missouri’s eighth NIT appearance. The team currently owns a 1-7 record in the tournament, with its only win coming in 1996.

Missouri coach Frank Haith led Miami to four NITs as a head coach, posting a 6-5 record. Haith won the NIT as an assistant at Wake Forest in 2000.

“It was a great feeling to go to New York and compete. North Carolina State in the semis, Notre Dame in the final with Troy Murphy. It was a really good experience, and I think that’s what our guys want.”

Davidson qualified for the NIT by winning the Southern Conference regular season championship. Davidson is 2-1 against Missouri all-time.

The Wildcats shot 37.9 percent from behind the 3-point line. Missouri went 3-4 against SEC teams who shot more than 35 percent. Haith said transition defense and the ability to guard the 3-point line will be important.

Senior forward Tony Criswell would not play, Haith said. Criswell missed the SEC Tournament while facing legal trouble.

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