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Thundering Herd headed to NIT

MU basketball
Mar. 12, 2012 @ 12:05 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall's Thundering Herd is NIT-bound.

Marshall players gathered in their Cam Henderson Center locker room Sunday night watching the NIT Selection Show on ESPNU and let out a loud yell and cheering when their team appeared on the bracket.

The Thundering Herd is back in the National Invitation Tournament after a 24-year absence.

"It's obviously a huge step," Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said. "It's the next step up. It's the next step for our program. It's the next step in restoring our great tradition."

Bids for the 32-team NIT went out Sunday night and Marshall was seeded fifth in its bracket of eight teams.

Marshall (21-13) was sent on the road for a 9:15 p.m., Tuesday, matchup with fourth-seeded Middle Tennessee State (25-6) at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Ticket information will be released Monday on www. herdzone.com.

The game will be available live via WatchESPN.com for computer, mobile phone and tablet online viewing.

Tennessee (18-14) is top-seeded in the Herd's bracket and plays Tuesday at home against eighth-seeded Savannah State (21-11). Other games in the bracket Wednesday are sixth-seeded Minnesota (19-14) at third-seeded LaSalle (21-12) and seventh-seeded Valparaiso (22-11) at second-seeded Miami (19-12).

Second-round games begin Thursday, again hosted by the higher seeds. With a win Marshall would either go to Tennessee or play host to Savannah State.

Marshall, with a Rating Percentage Index of No. 44, is the highest-ranked team.

"When you look at the field, it's a great reflection on our team that we're hosting," MTSU head coach Kermit Davis said. "There are 16 or 18 teams in this field that could win NCAA Tournament games.

"Marshall is a really talented team and they're playing really well."

College basketball's postseason events didn't completely overlook Marshall this time, although the Herd was the only Top 50 RPI team that didn't get in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, Marshall was the highest-rated school that wasn't selected for either tournament.

Marshall's other NIT appearances were 1988, 1973, 1968 and 1967.

"None of our players were born since the last appearance in the NIT," Herrion said. "It's a great challenge playing on the road at Middle Tennessee.

"They are a terrific club out of the Sun Belt and have had a terrific year."

Memphis beat Marshall, 83-57, in the Conference USA championship game Saturday.

The Herd and Blue Raiders met five times previously with MTSU leading the series, 3-2. Marshall won the last meeting on Nov. 17, 2009 at home, 63-60.

MTSU was the Sun Belt Conference regular season champion and was upset in the conference tournament quarterfinals by Arkansas State, 64-61.

Sun Belt Player of the Year LaRon Dendy, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound senior forward leads the Blue Raiders with 14.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Dendy was also an all-conference first team selection while junior guard Marcos Knight (11.8 ppg, 5.1 reb) made the second team and 6-8, 230-pound junior forward J.T. Sutton (10.4 ppg, 5.4 reb) was on the third team.

Davis was the Sun Belt Coach of the Year.

National Invitation Tournament

Marshall (21-13)

At Middle Tennessee St. (25-6)

9:15 p.m., Tuesday

Murphy Center

Murfreesboro, Tenn.

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