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IPFW
vs. Akron
What: First round, CollegeInsider.com tournament
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Gates Center
Radio: 1380 AM

IPFW thrilled to host CIT opener

Kibiloski
Bland

– The sting lingered a bit. No one’s going to lie to you about that.

“It was hard afterward. It took awhile because it was just such a hard loss,” IPFW forward Michael Kibiloski says, looking back a week to Sioux Falls Arena, to North Dakota State 60, IPFW 57 in the Summit League championship game.

“Guys were thinking, well, maybe I could have done this or maybe done that, or maybe went a little harder on one play or other,” point guard Pierre Bland agrees. “It’s still a little bit in your mind, just because of how hard we played.”

The good news in that: That little bit shrinks a little more every day.

The better news: It’ll shrink even more quickly now that basketball isn’t quite finished with the Mastodons, nor the Mastodons with it.

A week after the North Dakota State loss they’re still practicing, thanks to the CollegeInsider.com tournament. Akron out of the Mid-American Conference is coming in tonight, which gives this historic Mastodons team one more chance to take the floor.

Even if not everyone knows a whole lot about the CIT.

It’s a 32-team tournament for non-BCS conference schools – i.e., mid-majors – with above-.500 records who don’t make the NCAA or NIT tournaments. It dates to 2009, when it launched with a 16-team field. Old Dominion was the first champion.

Subsequent championships have been won by Missouri State (2010), Santa Clara (2011), Mercer (2012) and East Carolina (2013). The defending champion Pirates head the field this year.

As with the College Basketball Invitational, the CIT is a pay-to-host tournament. Host schools pay a reported $35,000 base fee to do so, theoretically recouping the money through gate receipts, concessions and promotions.

IPFW began talking discreetly with the CIT before the Summit League tournament and accepted the CIT bid the night of the Summit League championship game. The school had been told by the NIT that, even with a 24-10 record, it was likely to fall short of an NIT berth – although an NIT invite, however, would have activated a clause in the CIT contract that would have allowed the Mastodons to accept.

“The NIT people were phenomenal,” Jasick said. “I can’t stress that enough. I was actually shocked at how good they were, how open they were when we had conversations with them following the season about kind of what is your criteria, where you see our program.

“Obviously, they said we were right there, had a great year, but they also were honest enough to say at this point, … it looks like you guys are a couple spots away from where you need to be to get in.”

And so, the CIT. And with which Jasick, for one, is familiar.

“The people at College Insider have been phenomenal to our program,” he says. “But what they do for mid-major basketball is huge for programs like ours. And this tournament is just another way that they help promote and work with mid-major college basketball.”

And extend a historic season just a bit further.

bensmith@jg.net

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