Although the University of Central Arkansas Bears and Sugar Bears lost short of the championship game in the Southland Conference tournament, both are preparing to continue the season.
The Bears have already reached the postseason, having gained a bid to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), a tournament available to teams that don't make either the NCAA or NIT.
The UCA men will leave Tuesday for its first-round game against the University of Seattle in the 16-team tournament.
The Sugar Bears were in a holding pattern to see whether they would receive a bid late Monday night to either the WNIT or the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI). Those fields were set after the NCAA women's bracket Monday.
The CBI will be played on campus sites. The winner of he UCA-Seattle game will play at the Jacksonville Canassius winner Monday, March 19.
The tourney will be re-bracketed prior to the semifinals on Wednesday, March 21. The finals will be a best-of-three series in which one team will host two of the three games. That series will be on March 26, 28 and 30.
Seattle is 20-13 overall and went 8-6 and finished fourth in the eight-team Western Athletic Conference. The Redhawks lost to eventual champion New Mexico State in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament on Friday. Seattle went 16-2 at home this season.
The other CBI first-round matchups include fellow Southland member New Orleans hosting UT-Rio Grande Valley, Eastern Washington at Utah Valley, Colgate at San Francisco, Miami (Ohio) at Campbell, North Texas at South Dakota, Mercer at Grand Canyon and Jacksonville State at Canisius.
The Bears are 17-16 overall after losing in the quarterfinals of the Southland Conference Tournament to eventual champion Stephen F. Austin on Thursday in Katy, Texas. The 17 victories are the most for the Bears since moving to NCAA Division I in 2006-07.
"Nine of our losses were by a combined 43 points," said UCA coach Russ Pennell at the final Bearbackers luncheon of the season Monday. "We were on rhe cusp of being really good. We took the next step. Even though we are losing Jordan Howard (the leading scorer in college Division I history in Arkansas), I think we will be more talented next year. We will have some surprises for you.
"We're ecstatic to play postseason basketball. It's an opportunity to play together more times."
UCA will also be making its fourth trip to the West Coast this season.
"I don't think having played in the time zone may make that much of difference," Pennell said. "We're played pretty well out there. We have kids from out in that region and they kinda like playing out there and in front of some of their families. It's more about enthusiasm and family than time."
Past CBI champions include Tulsa, Oregon State, VCU, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Santa Clara, Siena, Loyola Chicago, Nevada, and Wyoming. Teams from nearly every conference have participated in the event. Twenty-eight teams have used the CBI to springboard to the NCAA Tournament the following year, while another 18 have gone on to the NIT.
ESPN is again the official television home of the CBI. ESPNU will televise each game of the best-of-three Championship Series. Roy Philpott and Jason Capel will serve as the broadcast team.
The College Basketball Invitational is produced by the Gazelle Group of Princeton, N.J. The Gazelle Group is a sports marketing firm. Gazelle produces numerous nationally-recognized events, such as the 2K Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project, Legends Classic, and the Gotham Classic.
The CBI plays travel expenses for the teams.
"I'm packed," said coach Sandra Rushing, whose team lost for the third straight time to Stephen F. Austin in the SLC semifinals Saturday. UCA could travel Tuesday and also play Wednesday. "We have to be ready to get on the road and go and get in the mindset for a tournament. There's not much sleep."
Rushing said UCA's inability to play one-on-one defense, plagued it again during the tournament.
"We couldn't stop the basketball," she said. "But we can teach defense. We are recruiting offensive players. We have not been a good offensive team this season. We have to do a lot better job of shooting the basketball."