Wildcats earn postseason invite to College Insider Tournament (CIT)

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They may not have qualified to the Southland Conference tournament, but ACU men's basketball will indeed be postseason-bound next week.

The Wildcats accepted an invitation to participate in the Tournament (CIT) Wednesday morning, pushing their season into the postseason for the first time in 10 years and for the first time in the program's NCAA Division I era.

"Feels good to leave something behind for sure," smiled senior Drake Green who admitted he wasn't sure his team would take the court again this season. "I mean, especially in really knowing these guys -- I live with three of them, so we're a close group and it's just a good feeling to know we are getting to play again."

ACU head coach Joe Golding – who led the Wildcats to a 16-15 regular-season mark this season to secure the program’s first winning regular season record since 2007-08 – told his team about the invitation at a Wednesday morning team meeting. ACU will learn the details of its first-round opponent later this week.

“We’re very honored to receive a bid to play in the CIT,” Golding said. “If you look at the history of this event (now in its 10th year), you see a lot of teams have used this tournament as a springboard for the following year. This is an important year for our program, and I’m glad our guys will get a chance to participate in postseason play.”

In the nine years the tournament has been played, six times the team that won the tournament went on to post a winning record the next season and four participated in the postseason the following season. Old Dominion – the first CIT champion in 2009 – made the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and three tournament champions – Missouri State in 2010, Mercer in 2012 and Murray State in 2014 – reached the NIT in the season following their CIT appearance.

Evansville won the 2015 tournament and the next season finished 25-9, but was not selected for the NCAA Tournament. The university decided not to participate in any other tournaments that season.

Last season, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Houston Baptist and Lamar from the Southland Conference all played in the CIT with Corpus Christi reaching the final where it lost to St. Peter’s, 62-61. Other Southland schools that have played in the CIT are Sam Houston State (2014, 2015 and 2016), Incarnate Word (2015), Northwestern State (2015), Oral Roberts (2013) and McNeese (2012). The Southland is a combined 8-14 in 22 CIT games.

The Wildcats earned the invitation to the CIT after a tough February that saw them post a 1-6 record and fall from 6-4 Southland record entering the month to 7-10 and tied for eighth place when the month ended. ACU, though, finished the regular season last Saturday with a 69-59 road win over Incarnate Word that clinched the program’s first winning regular season since 2007-08 when the Wildcats were 20-9.

But the Wildcats were left out of the Southland Conference Postseason Tournament because it lost the tiebreaker for eighth place to Corpus Christi, leaving the team to wonder for the last few days whether its 16-15 record and body of work during the whole season – including wins over Campbell, Bowling Green, Texas State and Air Force, as well as two narrow losses to NCAA Tournament automatic qualifier Lipscomb – would be good enough to earn a postseason invitation.

"We really have fought hard for them since after the Incarnate World game and when we knew we weren't going to be in Katy -- for these guys to get the opportunity," said Golding on Wednesday. "I think we have a great story, you know we're a program on the rise and our first winning season in ten years, so I think these guys have the right to play in the postseason and I'm happy that other people agreed with us on that."

And the nod also is extra special for the three seniors on the Wildcat squad.

“I’m so proud of them (Drake Green, Isaiah Tripp and Tevin Foster), especially Drake and Tripp for sticking with us for these last four years,” Golding said. “I’m glad they get to leave here having had the chance to play in a postseason game. We’ve had a lot of great things happen this season – a winning record in the regular season, a terrific team GPA last fall (3.11), some great wins over really good Division I basketball teams – and now we get to cap it off with postseason play. This program is in a great spot right now, and hopefully we can use this as a springboard to where postseason play is a regular part of our season moving forward.”

For the sixth consecutive year, CBS Sports Network is the home of the CIT. This season, CBS Sports Network will televise seven tournament games, including the semifinals and championship game. Also, four (4) first round CIT games on Monday, March 12th will be part of 12 consecutive hours of college basketball coverage on the network, including extensive studio coverage breaking down the 2018 NCAA Tournament. All remaining CIT games will be streamed live through CBS Sports Digital’s subscription OTT service, SportsLive, and

The four first round games will be televised live on CBS Sports Network on Monday, March 12 at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. (all times are Central time) and will be the only college basketball games played on the day after Selection Sunday. CBS Sports Network will also televise the CIT semifinals on Wednesday, March 28, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (central time), and the CIT Championship on Friday, March 30, at 6 p.m. (central time).

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