Tuesday, March 17, 2009

From Brass @ the Post & Courier

Like every team that competes, the ultimate goal for the College of Charleston men's basketball team was an opportunity to compete in the 65-team NCAA Tournament. But with nearly 350 schools in Division I, the Cougars are happy that there are a few other dances besides the big one.

Charleston, which lost to Chattanooga in the SoCon Tournament championship game, got word late Sunday that the Cougars' 26-8 record wasn't enough to land them a spot in the National Invitation Tournament. But it was more than enough for a spot in the College Basketball Invitational, a second-year event featuring a 16-team field. The Cougars will travel to play Troy (19-14) of the Sun Belt Conference at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Cougars coach Bobby Cremins is a big advocate of having more teams invited to the NCAA, which in turn would offer more opportunities in the National Invitation Tournament. But right now he's happy for the CBI and the opportunity if affords his team.

"I think these tournaments are great. Until we put more teams in the Big Dance, I'm a big advocate of these tournaments," said Cremins, noting that The Citadel (20-12) also will get a postseason opportunity in the inaugural College-Insider.Com Tournament.

Senior guard Marcus Hammond said the Cougars are excited to still be playing. Hammond said he kept up with the selection process on the computer and by text messages and was happy when the word finally came around 11:30 p.m. "It extends our careers and gives us another opportunity to play and show our value to the program," Hammond said. "I think the CBI is a tournament that will grow. It's not where the NCAA or NIT is, but the tournament will grow. We want to go out and win the tournament and go out as champions.

"We don't have a lot of time to find out about Troy. It's a quick turnaround. We'll give it all we've got. We'll do a lot of studying and then we'll be ready Wednesday."

Fellow senior Jermaine Johnson said he knows the Trojans are members of the Sun Belt Conference, whose champion is Western Kentucky, and that says a lot.

"I'm ready to play," Johnson said. "We've already been off the court too long. This is the most exciting thing ever. I've never been to a postseason tournament. The fact we actually have a chance to do this is a great feeling."

Cremins said prior to the two new tournaments, the only SoCon teams that would be in postseason play would be tournament winner Chattanooga and regular season champion Davidson.

"So this is fun for us," he said. "But we need to take this tournament seriously. We need to go in thinking we want to prove ourselves. I'm going to tell them how fortunate they are to still be practicing. We could be closing shop right now. We have an opportunity to play in a postseason tournament. Let's go out and give it everything we have."

Cremins said the opportunity is a step in the right director for the College of Charleston program.

"You have to remember, we have four sophomores, we have Tony White, who is a junior, and we have these freshmen. The more they play, it might mean something next year," Cremins said.

"I'm happy for the seniors. That was a tough loss for them in Chattanooga. Jermaine, Marcus, Dustin Scott. They really wanted to win that game. Now, they keep playing. Our first choice, obviously, was to beat Chattanooga and go to the Big Dance and get involved with March Madness."

Reach Tommy Braswell at braswell@postandcourier.com


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