Eight days after a heartbreaking loss to Valparaiso in the Horizon League championship game, when Wright State came within minutes of advancing to the NCAA tournament, the 2012-13 season will resume for the Raiders.
Wright State (21-12) announced late Sunday night it would host Tulsa (17-15), of Conference USA, on Wednesday in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational at a time to be announced. Tulsa, coached by Kansas Jayhawk legend Danny Manning, won the first CBI in 2008.
The Raiders didn’t make the NIT field and were also considered a candidate for the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, which has three other Horizon League teams.
“We talk at length every year going back to when the CIT and CBI first started,” Athletic Director Bob Grant said. “I believe we’ve had a chance to play in it almost every year. We weigh the pros and cons. It has to make sense on a bunch of fronts. This year, there’s really a buzz around us. With the roster being as young as it is, there’s not a senior on the roster. They’re doing well academically. All those things have to play into the decision.”
Wright State is paying $35,000 to host the first-round game. Grant said the cost goes up for hosting in each additional round, and he said Wright State wouldn’t pay to host again unless it reached the best-of-three championship series April 1-3.
If the Raiders win, their second-round opponent in the 16-team field would be Richmond (18-14), Va., or Bryant (19-11), of Smithfield, R.I.
“After talking to sponsors and donors, we decided we could afford to cover the cost with ticket sales and outside donors and sponsorships,” Grant said.
Coach Billy Donlon said he talked with his team after the 62-54 loss to Valparaiso on Tuesday, and all the players wanted to play again and were excited about playing again. They returned to practice Saturday with some skill work and had their first full practice Sunday.
“I’m excited for our program,” Donlon said. “These tournaments have had really good winners and good teams. I’m excited because Wright State has only gone to two postseason tournaments in its Division I history (1993 and 2007 NCAA tournaments). You do have to get your players used to playing in a one-and-done environment, especially with a team that’s going to be back next year.”
Previous winners of the CBI include: Pittsburgh, Oregon, VCU, Oregon State and Tulsa.
Other first-round matchups this season include: George Mason at College of Charleston; Texas at Houston; Western Illinois at Purdue; Vermont at Santa Clara; Lehigh at Wyoming; and North Dakota State at Western Michigan.
Wright State decided not to seek a berth in the CBI or CIT in 2011 when it finished 19-14. Grant said then, “For us, there will be some years when it does make sense. Both tournaments have been very good about wanting to include us.”
The Raiders finished 20-12 in 2010 and lost in the Horizon League championship game to Butler. They told the CBI and CIT they weren’t interested in playing in their tournaments when it became clear they wouldn’t make the NIT.
“Our guys are a little down,” said coach Brad Brownell, who took the head coaching job at Clemson after the season, “and I think you’ve got to be really excited to play.”
Wright State also didn’t pursue a postseason berth in 2009 when it finished 20-13.
“The timing’s bad,” Brownell said then. “We have exams next week, and we’re still a little banged up from the season.”
Other Horizon League teams to make the postseason include:
• Valparaiso, which beat Wright State 62-54 on Tuesday in the Horizon League championship game, got a No. 14 seed in the NCAA tournament and will play No. 3 seed Michigan State in Auburn Hills, Mich., on Thursday.
• Detroit is a No. 6 seed in the NIT and will play at No. 3 Arizona State at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
• In the CIT, Green Bay will play at Bradley in the first round, Illinois-Chicago will host Chicago State and Youngstown State will host Oakland.