UNC Asheville was hoping to make a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament after winning the Big South regular season championship. But that goal was dashed by an upset loss to Campbell in the opening round of the conference tournament. Instead, the Bulldogs will play in the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament, where in addition to extending their season they could also potentially get a shot at revenge against the Big South rival Camels. UNCA (23-9) will open the 26-team event on Thursday at 8 p.m. on the road at Tennessee-Martin. The Skyhawks are 21-12 after winning the Ohio Valley West Division title and losing to Jacksonville State in the final of their conference tournament. The CIT will be UNCA’s sixth all-time postseason appearance, having played in the NCAA four times and the NIT once. The Bulldogs lost to eventual national champion Villanova 86-56 in the opening round of last year’s NCAA tournament. “We are privileged to continue playing,” UNCA coach coach Nick McDevitt said in a statement. “We are excited to represent the Big South Conference and UNC Asheville for the second time in as many years in a postseason tournament. UT Martin will be a tough opponent. They are a 21-win team that won the West Division of the OVC, so we’ll need to be ready to play on Thursday night.” Campbell, meanwhile, will host a first round game against Houston Baptist at Gore Arena in Buies Creek. The Camels are only 17-17 this season, but are coming off a strong run to the Big South tournament final that included that upset of UNCA, along with wins against Presbyterian and Radford. Coach Kevin McGeehan’s team will be making its first postseason appearance since the 1992 NCAA tournament and is led by sophomore guard Chris Clemons, the nation’s third-leading scorer who averaged 35.0 points per game in three Big South tournament games. “It is truly an honor to participate in the College Insider.com Tournament,” McGeehan said. “This is a culmination of a lot of hard work and a magical run to the Big South championship game. I’m honored to be the coach of the Fighting Camels and am ecstatic about the direction of this young team. This is a natural step for this program and it will be a great experience for our student-athletes and fans.” Houston Baptist is 17-13 and was the fourth seed in last week’s Southland Conference tournament. Other first-round CIT matchups include Norfolk State (17-16) at Liberty (19-13) tonight, Saint Francis (16-16) at Jacksonville (17-15) and Canisius (18-15) at Samford (19-15) on Tuesday, Ball State (21-12) at Fort Wayne (19-12), Fairfield (16-14) at UMBC (18-12), Georgia State (20-12) at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (20-11) and Stephen F. Austin (18-14) at Idaho (18-13) on Wednesday and Saint Peter’s (19-13) at Albany (21-13), Furman (21-11) at USC Upstate (17-15), Lamar (19-14) at Texas State (20-13) and Weber State (19-13) at Cal State Fullerton (17-14) on Thursday. Second round games will be played on March 17-20, with the quarterfinals on March 23-26 and the semifinals on March 29. The championship game is scheduled for Friday, March 31 at 9 p.m. with television coverage on CBS Sports Network. All games will be played on campus sites and because there is no brackets, future matchups will be determined by the outcomes of earlier games. East Carolina won the 2013 championship of the eight-year old CIT.
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