Postseason basketball for UCF is still very much in play despite their 75-60 loss to East Carolina in the opening round of the Conference USA tournament.
The Knights were in the NIT mix entering the league tourney, but probably needed to win a game or two to get serious consideration. The early exit, combined with a growing number of regular season conference champs earning automatic bids for failing to win their conference tourney, means the NIT is probably out.
However, the NIT - just like the NCAA Tournament - doesn't officially release bubble teams to explore other options. UCF entered Wednesday's action with a still-solid 62 RPI rating, but that will likely drop some spots following the loss to ECU.
The NIT anounces their field late Sunday night.
If a school believes their chances of reaching the NIT are nil, they are free to accept bids to the Collegiate Basketball Invitational (CBI) or CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT). On Tuesday, Northern Iowa and Santa Clara finalized agreements to host CIT games.
Early Wednesday, UCFAA issued a press release to alert fans of the possibility of hosting a postseason game with information on how to secure tickets. The NIT and CBI were mentioned specifically.
After the game, UCF Director of Athletics Keith Tribble indicated via Twitter that postseason is still on the table.
"Tough loss for the Knights," Tribble tweeted. "Have to wait for our postseason options."
Assuming NIT is out, and UCF wants to host a CBI game, an early announcement would be key for awareness and to begin the ticket sales process. Otherwise, if UCF waits until late Sunday to find out they're officially out of the NIT mix, they would only have just one day to get the word out about hosting a CBI or CIT game.
NATIONAL INVITATION TOURNAMENT - NIT
Dates: Begins March 15-16, Final Four is scheduled for March 29-31.
Format: The NIT chooses their 32-team field immediately after the NCAA Tournament teams are selected. Automatic bids will be given to teams who win their regular season conference championship, but fail to win their league tournament and do not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Nine teams have already received such a bid and that number could grow. That leaves 23 at-large spots as of mid-afternoon Wednesday.
The selection and seeding process is similar to the NCAA Tournament with the difference being the higher-seeded teams host games until the Final Four, which is played at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
TV: ESPN televises selected first and second round games with full coverage of the quarterfinals and Final Four.
Odds: A win last week at Marshall and a win in the C-USA tournament could have ensured a bid, but with two back-to-back losses chances are probably slim especially with fewer at-large spots available.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL INVITATIONAL - CBI
Dates: Begins March 15-16, ends with best-of-three championship series on March 28.
Format: Now in its fourth year, the CBI consists of 16 teams not selected for the NIT. All games are played at host sites. The championship format is unique in that the final two teams play a best-of-three. Each finalist is a guaranteed a home game with the higher seed being awarded home court advantage by hosting a possible third game.
TV: The semifinals and championship series will be televised by HDNet. Selected first round and quarterfinals games are also televised by HDNet.
Odds: The CBI is a good bet as long as UCF is willing to participate and ready to commit the resources. C-USA teams have regularly appeared in the tournament with UTEP and Houston having made two appearances. Tulsa won the inaugural CBI Championship in 2008. The kicker is if a school wants to host a game, they must pay a fee. According to a story last year in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "each round of the CBI costs $60,000 for the home team unless it negotiates a deal with the tournament organizers to play in one of their preseason tournaments in the coming years." Some schools have declined CBI bids due to the cost of participation and lack of prestige compared to the NIT. Power conference schools typically bypass the CBI, though Oregon State (twice), Stanford and Cincinnati have made appearances.
CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament
Dates: Begins March 15.
Format: Founded in 2009, the CollegeInsider.com Tournament features a 24-team, single elimination field and competes head-to-head with the CBI for teams. Only mid-major teams are considered for entry.
TV: The championship is televised by Fox College Sports. All other tournament games will be streamed online at FoxCollegeSports.com.
Odds: If UCF wants to a host a postseason game and strives to be more budget conscious then this tournament is a possibility. The CBI typically features better teams, but the cost to host a CIT game is significantly less, reported to be between $20-$40,000 (compared to $60,000 for the CBI). Two C-USA schools participated in last year's CIT - Donnie Jones' team at Marshall as well as Southern Miss. Missouri State and Old Dominion have won the first two CIT championships.