The Southern Miss men’s basketball team will take part in the postseason for the first time since 2014 when the Golden Eagles travel to take on Longwood in Farmville, Virginia, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in the College Basketball Invitational.
USM enters the game at 20-12 after tying for second place in Conference USA and Longwood, which is in the Big South Conference, stands at 15-17.
Rather than using the NIT’s practice of allowing the higher seed to host games, the CBI uses a bidding process to decide which teams have the right to host games in the first two rounds. Teams are required to pay $40,000 to host a game in the first two rounds.
USM interim athletic director Jeff Mitchell said Monday that the school agreed to host one of the first two CBI rounds, but it remains to be seen whether they will be rewarded a home game if they advance to the next round in the 16-team tournament.
“After the first two rounds, there is no more paying to host,” Mitchell said. “But the company takes your gate receipts. At the end of the day, it’s less about the money and more about providing you an opportunity to improve your program. With everything the men’s program has been through over the last 5 years, the program is taking some significant strides. It was in our best interest to continue to play. It’s absolutely a reward for our senior class. They deserve the opportunity to play.”
Mitchell has experience working with both the CBI and the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament during his time at Santa Clara. The Broncos won the 2011 CIT and the CBI in 2013.
“From a financial standpoint, our expenses are mostly covered for travel,” Mitchell said. “The tournament picks up those expenses. Going on the road, there will be some nominal expenses that we incur. We’ve certainly closely examined the financial situation in this model. We’ve been good stewards of our money to ensure that it’s fiscally responsible.”
The winner of USM-Longwood will face the winner of Central Michigan-DePaul, which will be played at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Chicago.
About the CBI
The CBI is a 16-team tournament that has been in existence since 2008, when Tulsa won the first event out of Conference USA.
The CBI features a single-elimination format until the tournament reaches the title round, which features a three-game series. The tournament will be re-bracketed after the quarterfinal round.
USM is looking to give C-USA its second consecutive CBI title after North Texas beat San Francisco in the title series a year ago.
The CBI is run by the Gazelle Group, which produces five other early season basketball tournaments.
The Lancers got off to a promising 7-3 start, but began to struggle in the new year and finished 5-11 in conference play.
A big reason for Longwood’s dip in performance was the dismissal of the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, Isaiah Walton, in late January for “failing to meet program expectations.” He was averaging 17.8 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Six-foot-1 junior guard Shabooty Phillips sets the tone for the Lancers, averaging 13.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
Griff Aldrich is in his first year as the Longwood head coach after previously working on the staff at the Unversity of Maryland-Baltimore County.
Wednesday night’s contest will mark the first postseason game for Longwood since it moved up to the Division I level in 2007.
West Virginia (14-20) is the only power conference team in the tournament and will play host to the WAC’s Grand Canyon (20-13) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
UAB (20-14) is the only other C-USA team in the tournament and will travel to play Brown (19-11) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
The rest of Wednesday’s CBI games are Howard-Coastal Carolina, Stony Brook-South Florida, Cal State-Northridge-Utah Valley and Loyola Marymount-Cal Baptist.
There is no TV partner for the tournament through the first three rounds of competition.
However, the USM-Longwood game will be available on ESPN-plus, a subscription TV service that costs $4.99 a month.
The CBI’s three-game title series will be shown on ESPNU on April 1, April 3 and April 5.