Tourney bid means long trek for HPU men
High Point University men’s basketball coach Scott Cherry and his staff spent Monday scrambling.
Cherry didn’t mind because he was put in that position when HPU accepted an invitation around midnight to play a first-round game of the 32-team Collegeinsider.com Tournament on Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. at UC Irvine. It will be the first advancement past a conference tournament since the Panthers went to the NCAA Division II playoffs at the end of the 1996-97 season.
Getting the bid set off a rush to put together travel arraignments and to get video of the Anteaters, who went 20-15 and lost to Pacific in the finals of the Great West tournament as the No. 4 seed.
“We had several goals this season,” Cherry said. “We wanted to win the regular season and we did that by winning our division. We wanted to win the conference tournament and we didn’t do that. And we wanted to go to the postseason. Now, this isn’t the tournament that we wanted to go to but we are thankful that the CIT is giving us the opportunity to be one of the 148 teams still playing. It would be much worse to be one of the 200 or so teams sitting at home.”
The cross–country trip is not typical for the CIT, which tries to keep teams from having lengthy travel, and no other team is faced with such a trip this year.
“We just had to wait to see how things played out and we’re grateful they had a slot of us,” Cherry said. “I don’t know how it all played out. But we welcome the chance to get the extra game and the extra practice that will help us get ready for next year.”
Monday evening, the Panthers learned that they were going to have to get up early Tuesday so they can make a 6 or so a.m. flight out of Raleigh.
“We’ll get them out there in plenty of time to get there and have plenty of time for the guys to stretch out and to get accustomed to the time change,” Cherry said.
The Panthers will also practice today at the Anteaters arena.
“To get to go 3,000 miles to play basketball is exciting for us,” HPU senior forward Corey Law said.
HPU is one of four North Carolina teams in the tournament. Gardner-Webb will play host Eastern Kentucky and East Carolina will entertain Savannah State today. Elon travels to Canisius on Wednesday.
The tournament does not have defined brackets. Matchups for second-round games Friday through Sunday will be put together after the first round. Cherry said he has been assured the Panthers will stay on the East Coast for the second round should they advance.