NIT 2012: UMass Vs. Mississippi State: Minutemen Look To Build Off Late Season Success

After falling just short Saturday against St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 semifinals, (5) UMass (22-11) will make their 19th postseason appearance in program history when they travel to Starkville to take on (4) Mississippi State (21-11) Tuesday at 7 p.m. EDT in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. (TV: ESPN2, Radio: 1510 AM WWZN)

The at-large bid to the NIT marks the program's first postseason trip under fourth year head coach Derek Kellogg. Five March's ago, Travis Ford led the Minutemen all the way to Madison Square Garden and the NIT Championship Game, before falling to Ohio State 92-85. Two weeks later, Ford left Amherst to become the head coach of Oklahoma State.

The run marked the second year in a row UMass made the NIT and the first time in school history that the Minutemen had won an NIT game in back-to-back seasons.

Kellogg was finally able to move off the hot seat and potentially into the long list of successful young coaches that have led the Minutemen, with a 22-11 season this year. After winning just 12 games in each of his first two seasons, Kellogg led the Minutemen to a .500 record last year and finally turned the corner this season with the help of a new system and star. The Minutemen ditched their patented dribble-drive system and focused on constant defensive pressure and up-tempo offense behind all league point guard Chaz Williams.

Williams has been the star for the Minutemen all season, as the Hofstra transfer led the Minutemen in over a half dozen categories. In his first season in Amherst, the sophomore has averaged 16.5 ppg, 6.5 apg and 2.3 spg, all while playing almost 34 minutes and starting 32 of 33 games.

The pair will lead UMass against a Mississippi State team that looked destined for a trip to the NCAA Tournament for much of the season. After starting the season 19-5 with wins over Arizona, Alabama and on the road against Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs dropped six of their final eight games. Thursday Mississippi State fell 71-61 to Georgia in the First Round of the SEC Tournament.

A pair of All League players have led Stansbury's squad all season, as junior forward Arnett Moultrie and senior guard Dee Bost have been the top two scorers and playmakers. Moultrie, a UTEP transfer, has averaged a team-high 15.8 points and 10.6 rebounds while shooting 55.1 percent from the field. Bost has been even better. The point guard has averaged 15.6 points and 5.3 assists per game, while carrying an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost 2-to-1. He also leads the team in made 3-point field goals and free throws and is best known for his ability to score from anywhere on the floor.

The key player for the Bulldogs and potentially to Tuesday's matchup is the volatile Renardo Sidney. After sitting out his freshmen season due to a NCAA suspension, Sidney averaged nearly 15 points and eight games as a sophomore and has averaged 9.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this season.

The winner of Tuesday's matchup will take on the winner of Tuesday's night game between (1) Seton Hall and (8) Stony Brook between March 15 and March 19.

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