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Cats’ NIT matchups announced

By The Mercury

The Kansas State men’s basketball team will host Alabama-Huntsville, Lamar and North Texas in the Midwest Region of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Nov. 12-13.

The third-seeded Wildcats will open the event against reigning Southland Conference champion Lamar at 7 p.m. on Nov. 12 in the first game of a doubleheader, with Division II Elite Eight participant Alabama-Huntsville and Sun Belt Conference Tournament runner-up North Texas following at 9:30 p.m. 

The two first-round winners will square off at 9 p.m. on Nov. 13 on ESPN2 with a berth in the semifinals and a trip to New York City on the line following the second-round consolation game that will tip at 6 p.m.

All four teams in the Midwest Region won at least 18 games in 2011-12, while three (K-State, Lamar and Alabama-Huntsville) advanced to the NCAA tournament. 

This will mark the Wildcats’ third appearance in the NIT Season Tip-Off, following losses at Alabama in 1994 and Arizona in 1999.

K-State is one of the tournament’s four highest-seeded teams, along with Michigan, Pittsburgh and Virginia, which will host first- and second-round doubleheaders on their respective campuses Nov. 12-13.  The winners of the preliminary rounds advance to the semifinals on Nov. 21 at Madison Square Garden in New York.  The consolation and championship games will be played Nov. 23.

The 12 teams that don’t make it to the semifinals in New York will play third- and fourth-round doubleheaders Nov. 19 and 20 on the campuses of the three highest remaining seeds.

The Wildcats will play a Lamar team that won 23 games and advanced to the NCAA tournament in 2011-12 under first-year head coach Pat Knight. The regular season Southland Conference East Division champions won three games in four days to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, where the squad lost to Vermont, 71-59, in the NCAA First Four in Dayton, Ohio. 

Led by veteran head coach Lennie Acuff, Alabama-Huntsville returns eight lettermen, including three starters, from a squad that won 29 games and advanced to the Division II Elite Eight in 2011-12. 

North Texas, which will be under first-year head coach Tony Benford, returns all five starters from a team that won 18 games and advanced to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament final a year ago. The Mean Green squad includes Lou Henson Award finalist (Mid-Major Player of the Year) Tony Mitchell, who was the only freshman in the country to average a double-double (14.7 ppg., 10.3 rpg.).  He was the first freshman since Michael Beasley in 2007-08 to post multiple 30-point, 15-rebound games.

The 28th annual NIT Season Tip-Off will include eight seeded teams, including the four top seeds and five-seed Lehigh, six-seed Robert Morris, seven-seed Cleveland State and eight-seed Delaware. 

Michigan will host Bowling Green, Cleveland State and IUPUI in the North Region, Pittsburgh will host Fordham, Lehigh and Robert Morris in the East Region and Virginia will host Delaware, Fairfield and Penn in the South Region.

Individual ticket prices for the preliminary rounds at Bramlage Coliseum will be announced at a later date. Ticket information for the potential semifinal and final games at Madison Square Garden will also be communicated to Ahearn Fund members and season ticket holders at a later date.

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