There are teams that are happy to be in the NIT, and there teams that aren't, and the Illinois State Redbirds most likely qualify as the former. After a 12-19 finish a season ago, the Redbirds finished the 2011-2012 season with a 20-13 record and will enter the NIT as a No. 7 seed, where they'll travel to Oxford, Miss. to take on the Mississippi Rebels.
The Rebels, meanwhile, may have had their sights set higher than the NIT, but their high seeding in the tournament still represents some growth for a school with little basketball history to speak of. The Rebels also finished the year with a 20-13 record (8-8 in the SEC) that included victories over fellow NIT participants in the Miami Hurricanes, Mississippi State Bulldogs and Tennessee Volunteers. The Redbirds lack those sort of quality wins, but they did finish strong down the stretch, beating an NCAA Tournament team in the Wichita State Shockers and narrowly losing to another in the Creighton Blue Jays.
Game time/date: Wednesday, March 14, 8:30 p.m. CT
Location: Tad Smith Coliseum, Oxford, Miss.
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