The men’s basketball season isn’t over quite yet. The team accepted a bid to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament early Tuesday, and by Wednesday afternoon found out it was matched up against the Missouri State Bears.
After losing a heartbreaker to Eastern Kentucky in the OVC semifinals, Murray State no longer had a chance at the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. And with Belmont as the regular season champions, the Racers would not be in the National Invitation Tournament, either.
So, with a team comprised of only one senior, Murray State decided to earn more postseason experience by entering the field in the CIT. Four of this year’s scholarship players are in their first season with the Racers, and the team has seven underclassmen in the lineup.
Head Coach Steve Prohm told Murray State Sports Information the inexperience among the players played a factor in accepting the bid.
“We’re very excited to be in post-season play and we’re looking forward to trying to advance,” Prohm said to Sports Information. “The experience for our team is invaluable. Our goal from day one was the NCAA Tournament and it always will be, and we are disappointed in not making it. But this tournament will prove very beneficial for us and we’re excited to be a part of it.”
The tournament means Prohm has advanced a team to the playoffs in two of his three years as head coach. In his first year, Murray State ended the season 31-2 and was a game shy of making the NCAA Sweet 16.
The CIT berth gives the Racers a chance to continue their streak of 20-win season. At four straight, this team has tied the school record set from 1997-2000.
The Racers and Bears last met in the NIT in 2011, when Missouri State won 89-76.
This year, Murray State ended the season second in the conference at 13-3, while the Bears finished fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference at 9-9.
The complete field of teams will be finalized after the selections for the NCAA Tournament and the NIT have been made Sunday.
If the Racers advance, the second round of games will be played March 21-22. The quarterfinals are March 25-27, semifinals are April 1, and the championship game will be April 3.
The CIT draws its pool from schools which are not from the BCS, and all 31 games are played at host sites, not neutral locations.
To reduce travel, the opponents are matched up each round based on previous results, and teams near each other are likely to be paired. This means the next opponent will remain unknown until all games are completed for each round.
The Racers (18-11) will travel to JQH Arena in Springfield, Mo., to play Missouri State (20-12).
The teams play at 7:05 p.m. March 19, the second day of opening round games.