The Auburn men's basketball team (22-11, 10-6 SEC) will play Ohio Valley Conference regular season champion UT Martin (22-9, 14-4 OVC) in the National Invitation Tournament first round Wednesday at 7 pm Central in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum.
The Tigers won nine of 10 games before falling in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals to Tennessee 94-85 Saturday and Auburn*s 22 wins are tied for the third most in school history.
Tickets will go on sale Monday morning on-line at www.auburntigers.com and at the Auburn Athletic Department Ticket Office. Reserved tickets are $15 in lower level sections 29-33, $10 general admission for the rest of the building and $5 for college students and those 18-and-under.
"When you play at home you have an advantage,* Lebo said. *Every team you play in postseason now is good. We need every advantage that we can possibly get. Hopefully, we can continue on with a big crowd after the LSU game."
UT Martin is having its best season in school history and reached the postseason for the first time since moving to Div. I in 1995. The Skyhawks advanced out of the OVC Tournament first round for the first time ever last season in All-America candidate Lester Hudson*s first in Martin.
"We are happy to be playing right now,* said Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. *It is a good reward for our kids to be playing at this time of the year. We are playing UT Martin, a team from the OVC, and I certainly know about the OVC after coaching in that league. Tennessee-Martin has a terrific player, an NBA player, in Lester Hudson.*
Hudson ranks second in the nation averaging 27.3 points per game behind Davidson*s Stephen Curry and is nationally ranked in three other
categories: 12th shooting 87.9 percent from the foul line, ranks 20th making 3.2 three-pointers per game and ranks 21st with 2.4 steals per game. Hudson scored 35 points vs. eventual NCAA runner-up Memphis in his first collegiate game last year, and totaled 34 points and 10 rebounds in UT Martin*s 63-55 Ohio Valley Conference tournament semifinal loss to Morehead State on March 6.
UT Martin ranks 17th nationally averaging 78.7 points per game and is 18th with a 3.6 turnover margin.
Auburn was one of four No. 1 seeds in the NIT along with Florida, San Diego State and Creighton. The higher seeds in the 32-team field will have homecourt advantage in the first three rounds before the NIT Final Four in New York*s Madison Square Garden on March 31 and April 2.
Florida will play host to Jacksonville while two other SEC teams secured bids with No. 3 seed South Carolina playing host to Davidson and No. 4 seed Kentucky playing host to UNLV in Memorial Coliseum. Auburn was one of the last teams left out of the NCAA Tournament.
*I felt our disappointment (about not making the NCAA Tournament), but I quickly got over it,* said senior Rasheem Barrett. *I have been here for four years and haven*t had any postseason play. To be in the NIT is the best feeling in disguise. We still get postseason play and still get to play another basketball game. Every kid growing up wants to play in the NCAA Tournament, but we still have a team that wants to play in the NIT. They invited us to play, and we are looking forward to it.*
The Auburn-UT Martin winner will play the Northwestern (17-13) at Tulsa
(24-10) winner at the home of the higher seed on Friday, Saturday or Monday. The NIT quarterfinals will be March 24-25 at campus sites.