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Marshall lands in NIT, will open on road

Marshall's postseason will indeed continue, but nobody in the Thundering Herd camp could have guessed where this odyssey begins.

The Herd, fresh off of landing in the finals of the Conference USA tournament, has made the National Invitation Tournament field for the first time in 24 years, but will have to pack its bags and head back to the state of Tennessee.

Marshall (21-13) will head to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to take on Middle Tennessee of the Sun Belt Conference. The game is Tuesday night, with a 9:15 p.m. tip-off, with the game on ESPN3.com.

And if the Herd wins, it likely will head back to the Volunteer State to take on Tennessee in the second round.

Based strictly on the oft-quoted Rating Percentage Index, the Thundering Herd was the highest-rated NIT team at No. 44 - 13 spots ahead of Middle Tennessee. A home game looked likely, but the NIT selection committee didn't see the Herd as one of the best 16 teams in the field.

Coach Tom Herrion is grateful for his team's new adventure, but he seemed to be surprised, too.

"Same song, different dance," he said, probably remembering the NIT's snub of MU last year. "Same song, different dance."

Marshall is seeded fifth and MTSU (25-6) fourth in a region headed by No. 1 Tennessee. The Volunteers (18-14) take on No. 8 seed Savannah State on Tuesday.

Miami, Valparaiso, La Salle and Minnesota play in the region's other bracket. The other three No. 1 seeds are Washington, Seton Hall and Arizona.

The Blue Raiders (25-6) dominated the East Division of the Sun Belt, going 14-2 in the league. But they lost 64-61 to Arkansas State in the league tournament, a surprising upset by the eighth seed.

Six-foot-9, 235-pound senior LaRon Dendy leads the Raiders with 14.8 points and 7.0 rebounds. Marcos Knight averages 11.8 points.

Should the Herd win, the second round could be as early as Thursday and as late as next Monday, March 19. The quarterfinals are March 20-21, with the NIT final four heading to New York's Madison Square Garden for games March 27 and 29.

Facing a quick turnaround, the Herd will get back on the road today and head to Murfreesboro. That city is about 35 miles southeast of Nashville.

"It's a great next step for our program, being in a national tournament," said Herrion. "Twenty-four years is a long time; nobody on our team was born for the last appearance in the NIT. "

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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