The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 12:13 pm

IPFW see CIT invite as rebirth

Greg Jones The Journal Gazette

The IPFW men’s basketball program is getting a second chance.

The season appeared to be over when the Mastodons lost in the opening round of the Summit League tournament 82-73 last Sunday against South Dakota.

But IPFW will continue its season after the school accepted a second straight bid to the postseason tournament.

"That’s what you want," senior guard Isaiah McCray said of the CIT. "That’s what you work hard for is to get to the postseason and get to play some more basketball. It is unbelievable and feels great to be in the postseason.

"It feels wonderful to be able to play with these guys a little longer. You feel kind of upset that you can’t exactly get to where you want to be, and that’s the NCAA tournament, but not everybody can get into the postseason, and you have to feel excited about that. You feel that way about it, but we are not done yet. You feel we can still show everybody we still know how to play in the postseason. (The loss) was disappointing, but we just have to take advantage of the opportunity we have now."

The Mastodons (16-14) will find out Sunday who and where they play in the CIT opener. The first round will be March 17-18, and with a win, a second-round game could be March 20-21.

"We talked about it being a rebirth and making this a special year, still," IPFW coach Jon Coffman said. "Anytime you have a winning record, that’s a good year but if you can get up around 17 to 19 wins, that becomes a really good year, and up around 20 becomes an elite year. We have an opportunity to keep playing and get there.

"The more basketball we play the better. The more times you can play in a tournament setting where it’s do-or-die, the better they are going to get and the more comfortable they are going to get."

Coffman said the first game would be on the road against another mid-major from the Midwest. IPFW will have to pay to play only if it has a home game in the tournament.

Last year, the Mastodons beat Akron 97-91 in the first round of the CIT for their first-ever NCAA Division I postseason win. They fell 106-95 at VMI in the second round.

"The CIT has been a great addition to Division I basketball having a mid-major tournament so teams like us who had a good season get an opportunity to keep playing and get a chance at a championship," Coffman said. "We have this program in a position that they are calling us and want us in their tournament. We are respected in mid-major basketball around the country."

In other IPFW news, Coffman is one of 10 finalists for the Joe B. Hall National Coach of the Year award, which is given annually to the top first-year coach in college basketball.

The winner of the 2015 award will be announced at the Awards Banquet on April 3 in Indianapolis.

Coffman set a program first-year coaching record with the 16 wins. The finalists for the award also include Dennis Cutts (UC Riverside), Travis DeCuire (Montana), James Fox (Appalachian State), Chris Jans (Bowling Green), Kevin Keatts (UNC Wilmington), Scott Padgett (Samford), David Richman (North Dakota State), Craig Smith (South Dakota) and Keith Walker (Delaware State).


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