LINCOLN — If you need a title for Nebraska’s NIT opener Wednesday night, the old movie classic “12 Angry Men’’ would fit.
The Huskers (22-10), disappointed about not making the NCAA tournament, are downright livid about having to go on the road in the first round to face Mississippi State (22-11) at 8:05 on ESPN2.
“I feel we were really disrespected by the committee,’’ senior co-captain Evan Taylor said Tuesday. “It was heartbreak for us not to get in the tournament. But then to be a five seed was like, ‘Oh, man!’ ’’
The emotion from the fourth-place team in the Big Ten being no better than the 17th-best team in the NIT flowed through Monday’s practice.
“It was really good, really aggressive, with a little trash talk,’’ senior co-captain Anton Gill said. “Everyone was angry. It’s good we get to do that to somebody else now.’’
Coach Tim Miles said neither he nor basketball administrator Marc Boehm connected with any NIT selection committee members to learn how Nebraska slipped from what was expected to be a No. 2 seed to a No. 5.
NCAA Selection Committee Chairman Bruce Rasmussen, in a text to The World-Herald, said there is “zero’’ communication between the NCAA and NIT committees, even though both are under the auspices of the NCAA.
Rasmussen added there was “extensive discussion’’ of Nebraska in the NCAA room, saying the Huskers had a similar resume to USC, which was one of the first four out of the NCAA mix.
So why the low NIT seed?
“I don’t have any answers why,’’ Miles said. “It’s a slap in the face. If we win at Mississippi State, win at Baylor and win at Louisville, maybe we’ll make the first four out from Joe Lunardi.’’
That dig at ESPN’s self-proclaimed bracket expert wasn’t Miles’ only zinger Tuesday.
“Contrary to popular belief, I think we’ve had a good season,’’ Miles said, finger firmly on the sarcasm button. “Our kids have played well for the most part. I like what we were doing.’’
It’s a bit difficult to recall how Nebraska was playing considering Wednesday will be just its third game in 22 days. For Mississippi State, it will be the seventh.
“That’s what I’m most concerned about,’’ Miles said. “Just getting back to executing well, defending a game plan, just being locked into everything because you lose some of that without competition.
“We’ve scrimmaged each other, we’ve let them draft teams, we’ve split teams equally and we’ve timed it. But we need to be out and get booed a little bit to feel good.’’
Nebraska’s road trip to Starkville, Mississippi, is a familiar one. It’s the same one made Oct. 22 for a charity exhibition against MSU, which the Huskers won 76-72 after building a 21-point lead.
It’s unclear what size of crowd will be in Humphrey Coliseum. The “Hump’’ holds 11,000 fans. This season’s largest crowd was 9.002 for rival Ole Miss.
MSU students are gone on spring break, which led coach Ben Howland to plead with “the community to come out and support us in postseason play.’’ The Bulldogs are 18-2 at home, with losses to Top 20 foes Tennessee and Auburn. Nebraska was 4-7 in true road games.
Winning once in Starkville, Taylor said, provides confidence.
“It’s knowing that we can beat them because we beat them already,’’ he said, “but still with the understanding that was months ago. Each team is different and better.’’
The first three rounds of the NIT are played on campus sites, with the better-seeded team as the host. The semifinals and finals are March 27 and 29 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“We feel we can win the tournament,’’ Taylor said.
The NIT will experiment with four rules changes from regular NCAA men’s play:
- The games will be played in four 10-minute quarters, not two 20-minute halves. That means one less TV timeout per half.
-- The 3-point line will be moved back 1 foot, 8 inches, which is the international distance.
-- The width of the free-throw lane will be set at 16 feet, which is an NBA standard. The college width is 12 feet.
-- The shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound, instead of 30.
Nebraska installed the different dimensions on its practice floor for Monday’s workout. Senior guards Anton Gill and Evan Taylor were indifferent about the changes.
“I didn’t really notice it,’’ Gill said.
“We shot the ball really well in practice.’’ Taylor said, “Basketball is basketball. It’ll be interesting, I guess.’’
NU coach Tim Miles said other than a few three-second violations from the wider lane, he didn’t notice much difference during practice.