UE will host Ohio Valley Conference opponent Tennessee State at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Ford Center. Lower-bowl tickets to the game are on sale for $15.
News of another appearance in the third-tier College Basketball Invitational or CIT, which the Aces have played in three out of the last four years, came after they posted an 18-14 record and finished fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Indiana State, which knocked UE out of the MVC tournament, made the NIT field. Third-place regular-season finisher Northern Iowa did not.
Tennessee State went 18-14 and lost to eventual champion Belmont in the conference tournament’s semifinals. From its campus in Nashvile, the team’s trip to the Ford Center will take just over two hours.
Senior forward Robert Covington averages 17 points to lead four Tigers scorers averaging double figures and grabs 7.7 rebounds a game. Another senior and Illinois State transfer, forward Kellen Thornton, averages 15.7 points and 8 rebounds.
UE and Tennessee State both beat common opponents Alabama A&M from the Southwestern Athletic Conference and then OVC foe Tennessee Tech. They also lost to Murray State from the OVC.
With a 106th standing in the NCAA’s latest Ratings Percentage Index, the Aces stood a chance of making the NIT field until 10 regular-season conference champions lost in their tournaments, taking up many of the 32 bids.
UE did piece together a campaign to attract attention from the NIT selection committee, touting a strong finish (four straight wins to finish the regular season) and senior Colt Ryan (the MVC’s seventh all-time scorer) as reasons why the Aces should make it.
And UE did earn some consideration, said coach Marty Simmons.
“We’re just real hopeful right now for an NIT bid, and that’s what all of our energy and efforts are going to right now,” Simmons said earlier this week. “We feel like the body of work from the start of the season to the end has given us an opportunity to be considered.
“We’ve talked to all the tournaments, and we certainly have backup plans in place. I think right now our attention at least at this point is to hope to have a shot at playing in the NIT.”
A PDF guide to the CIT: Click here.
How to watch the CIT: Click here.
First round: March 18-20
Second round: March 22-24
Quarterfinal games: March 26-27
Semifinal games: March 29-30
Championship: April 2