By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
Following the Colonels’ loss to Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament last week in Nashville, EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said he felt like his team had earned a spot in a postseason tournament.
A week after the disappointing 81-73 loss to the Racers, Neubauer is still convinced the Colonels will be playing somewhere when the postseason tournaments get underway Tuesday.
But the Colonels, like many teams across the country will be watching and waiting Sunday night when the NCAA Tournament field of 68 teams is announced.
Once that field is complete, the other postseason events, the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) and the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) will fill the final slots in their events.
Neubauer said on Saturday that there is no doubt that the Colonels will be in one of the final three tournaments.
“We are definitely going to have the opportunity to continue to play. The CIT and the CBI have both presented opportunities to us. They would both love to have us in their tournaments,” Neubauer said. “We have a great chance to get an NIT bid. Our RPI is 71, so we are going to be either one of the last two teams in the NIT or one of the first two teams out of the NIT. The fact that we have an RPI of 71, we are absolute no brainers for the other two events.”
So, the Colonels, like the other teams will have to wait until Sunday night’s selection shows and see where they land. The NIT selection will be broadcast on ESPN beginning at 9 p.m.
Getting into the NIT has gotten much harder in recent years after it was revamped to include automatic qualifiers, like the NCAA Tournament, Neubauer said.
“It is so hard in this day and age to get an at-large NIT bid for us or anybody, whether it’s the Big East or SEC or the OVC,” Neubauer said. “What has happened is that they started adding about nine automatic qualifiers. So if a school like Belmont won the OVC but did not win their conference tournament, then they get an automatic bid to the NIT. That has really cut into that pool of available NIT bids.”
The Colonels were given four days off following the Murray State loss, but returned to practice Thursday and have practiced every day since.
Neubauer said he has been pleased with the mindset of the players since their return as they try to do add onto the list of things the team has accomplished this season by picking up the school’s first-ever postseason win.
“Our guys’ attitude has been very good this week. I have compliment them every day on their spirit. They have the right spirit coming back and trying to make history with this basketball team,” Neubauer said. “First of all we have 20 (regular-season) wins, which is more than any other Eastern Kentucky basketball team. Secondly, EKU has never won an NCAA Tournament game, an NIT game, a CBI or CIT game, so this is an opportunity to win one game, which would be incredible history here at EKU.”
Neubauer said he also reminded his team, as he did this season before its game with Valporaiso, that any team playing in any of the tournaments will be a tough opponent.
“Playing in the postseason is a double-edged sword, just like the BraketBuster game where we got the opportunity to compete on national TV against Valpo. Getting to play is the great news. The other part of it is that we are preparing for an unknown opponent that is going to be a very good basketball team and hopefully we can get ourselves ready to go,” Neubauer said. “The one point I made to our team is that the only teams that are still playing at this point in the season are all very good teams. But, our guys have earned this opportunity and are being rewarded for the success we have had so far this season.”
The Colonels were selected to play in the CBI following the 2009-2010 season. They lost at McBrayer Arena to College of Charleston, 82-79.