Southern Miss to play in NIT for first time since 2014

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)(Rogelio V. Solis | AP)
Published: Mar. 12, 2023 at 10:43 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WLBT) - The Southern Miss men’s basketball program was selected to play in the National Invitational Tournament for the first time in nearly a decade Sunday night.

The Golden Eagles last appeared in the NIT in 2014 when they lost in the quarterfinals.

Southern Miss earned an automatic bid for the tournament after being crowned the 2022-2023 Sun Belt Conference Regular Season champions in their first year competing in the league, ending the regular season with a 25-6 record and a 14-4 conference record.

The NIT has been good to USM in the past as the program won the whole thing in 1987 when they beat La Salle 84-80. Head coach Jay Ladner - a member of the 1987 winning team as a player - will look to hang another championship banner inside of Reed Green Coliseum now at the helm of his alma mater participating in a tournament that brings him fond memories.

“[The NIT] brings back some good memories,” Coach Ladner said. “I told my players that this feels really similar to 1987, and of course, that team is one of the most famous teams not only in USM history but the state of Mississippi. That is our motivation. They are excited about playing.”

Southern Miss will travel to Birmingham, Alabama to take on former Conference USA rival - the University of Birmingham-Alabama.

The game will surely be a tough test for the Golden Eagles against a team that Coach Ladner said he has yet to beat as the head coach of the Golden Eagles.

“We [used to] play them twice every year since I’ve been here, and I haven’t beaten them yet. So, that’s a great motivation for us,” Coach Ladner said when asked about playing a team he is familiar with. “It’s going to be a great challenge... It’s going to be fun.”

Contrary to what ESPNU originally reported, Southern Miss will play UAB Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. The contest will be streamed on ESPN Plus.

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