March 16, 2008
Contact: Brian McCann
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cleveland State ended a 20-year stretch without post-season basketball play officially came to an end this evening when the Viking men's basketball team received an invitation to take part in the 2008 MasterCard NIT.
The Vikings will enter the 32-team tourney as a No. 6 seed, playing at No. 3 Dayton on Wednesday (March 19) at 6:00 p.m. in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPNU. A win at Dayton would advance CSU to play the winner of No. 2 Illinois State vs. No. 7 Utah State.
"I couldn't be happier for the members of our basketball program," CSU head coach Gary Waters said. "This team has played hard through out the season and played against some of the best teams in the country. After finishing second in the Horizon League Tournament earlier this week, they were deserving of receiving a postseason bid and I thank the NIT selection committee for the honor.
"Our players went into this season with the intention of turning this program around, which they did. Now they get to take their play to a national level and see how they can do against 21 really strong programs."
"This will be a pretty good matchup," Waters added. "Dayton is a quality team who really started the hear out strong before running into some problems late in the year. We will be playing on their home court so it will be just like playing at Butler. It should be a good game."
The bid assures the Vikings of making only their fourth postseason appearance in the 77 years of the program's history. CSU made its only NCAA appearance in 1985-86, winning two of its three games, following that up with NIT appearances in both 1986-87 and 1987-88.
"This caps off a great day for Cleveland State basketball," CSU Director of Athletics Lee Reed said. "Combined with the Horizon League tournament title and NCAA bid that our women's basketball program won today, the Vikings have really made a statement to the nation
CSU owns a 2-2 mark all-time in NIT play,/ The Vikings routed Chatanooga, 92-73 in 1986-87 before falling to Illinois State, 79-77, in a second round game played at Public Hall. The following year, CSU edged Illinois State, 89-83 in overtime at Public Hall before losing, 86-80, in a second round game at Ohio State.
The NIT is nothing new to Waters, who will take his third different team to the tourney, owning a 7-4 record in four previous appearances. He guided Kent State to the quarter-finals in 1999-2000 and took Rutgers to the tourney three times in his five seasons, including a second place finish in 2003-04.
After going 10-21 in 2006-07, the Vikings are coming off a remarkable season, becoming one of at least 16 teams in NCAA history, and only the second in Horizon League annals, to win 20 or more games a season after losing 20 games. Cleveland State went 21-12, finishing second in the Horizon League during the regular season with a 12-6 mark and advanced to the title game of the tourney before falling to 10th-ranked Butler.
Tickets for the Dayton game and information about possible travel packages will be available beginning Monday on CSUVikings.com.