Cougars earn bid to NIT

The College of Charleston men’s basketball team will play postseason basketball this year, garnering an invitation to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

After dropping the CAA Title game to University of North Carolina Wilmington 78-69, the Cougars postseason fate was left hanging in the balance until the release of the NIT bracket on Sunday night (March 12).

The fifth-seeded Cougars (25-9) will face the Mountain West Conference runner up, fourth-seeded Colorado State (23-11) in the first round on Tuesday (March 14, 9 p.m.). 

Jarrell Brantley had a double-double in Charleston’s defeat at the hands of UNCW in the CAA Championship game, with 20 points and 11 rebounds. (Photo by Michael Wiser)

Once the most prestigious postseason tournament in men’s college basketball, today the NIT is a step below the NCAA Tournament in the level of competition. However, inclusion to the NIT is an honor for those accepting a bid, as all games are televised on the ESPN family of networks.

“It’s a big move for the program and a big move for the players,” said Charleston head coach Earl Grant. “We’re really excited for the challenge and opportunity ahead of us.”

Unlike the NCAA Tournament, games in the NIT are hosted on the campus of the higher seeded team. As a result, Charleston’s first round game will be a road game in Colorado.

“They’ve got really good players,” Grant said. “They’ve got a great home atmosphere. It’s a big time situation in terms of our players, our staff and our program having a chance to go into Fort Collins and play a terrific team.”

Charleston reached the NIT on four previous occasions, 1995, 1996, 2003, 2011, with the team’s best results occurring in 2011, reaching the semi-finals. Charleston sports a 4-4 all-time record in the event.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” said junior guard Joe Chealey. “I can’t tell you how excited I am, how excited the guys are. We’re just really blessed and thankful that we get a chance to play in March. Not a lot of teams get a chance to do that, so we’re thankful.”

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On a cold January evening in the winter of 2004, Sam Oleksak realized his dream. As a mere fourth grader, he had the chance to announce a high school basketball game for his hometown television station. In the hopes of one day becoming a sports pundit, Sam began at Cisternyard News in Fall 2014. He now serves as the Sports Editor on staff and also makes frequent appearances on Cisternyard Radio.

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