Panthers head to the CIT

Jehad Abbed, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern men’s basketball team will play in the College Insider Postseason Tournament starting Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Panthers will not know who they play until the pairings are announced on Sunday. The college basketball world refers to it as ‘Selection Sunday.’

Eastern is making its third appearance in a national postseason tournament since becoming a division-1 program.

Senior guard Reggie Smith said he is eager to see the Panthers challenge themselves and overcome the recent setbacks of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.

He said the team is used to the season being over after the tournament.

“I’m pretty sure the guys want to win on this team,” Smith said. “It’s just human nature to just shut down once you think you’re done.”

The Panthers are seeing their first postseason tournament action since 2001, which is also the last winning season they had. Eastern made it to the NCAA tournament that year as well as in 1992.

The CIT is a now 32-team postseason event that started in 2009 with 16 schools. The tournament follows a format similar to that of the National Invitation Tournament.

There are no set brackets throughout the tournament. Each round’s seeding is determined by the results of the games in previous round. The NCAA tournament follows the same bracket no matter the outcome of each round.

Smith said he looks forward to what the Panthers can take away from the tournament to better the program.  He is thankful just to be playing in the CIT during his senior season.

“There’s more teams not playing than there are playing,” Smith said. “I think we should be blessed and honored to be playing in any postseason.”

OVC champions Murray State University won the 2014 CIT Championship, but the Panthers have a chance to face teams they are not familiar with. Smith said Eastern might only have a couple days to see any game film to scout its opponent.

“That’s the fun part about it,” he said. “That‘s when you just have to go out there and execute and do what you practice all year round to see where that takes you.”

Eastern won its first conference tournament game 78-66 over Souther Illinois-Edwardsville, which was the Panthers first OVC tournament win since 2010.  They lost their 2nd round matchup with the eventual tournament champions, Belmont University.

Smith said the team was feeling down after the lost.

“We all expected to do more in the tournament,” Smith said. “Now that we are practicing and back together, we are all getting excited for whats next for us.”

Play opens up for the 7th annual CIT on Tuesday with the first round continuing into Wednesday. The tournament will go through March with a championship game on April 2.

Jehad Abbed can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].