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Playing in CIT is valuable, winning schools say

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Young teams similar to the University of Hawaii reap the biggest rewards from playing in the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament, say two schools that have won the event.

The Rainbow Warriors men’s basketball team will make its first postseason appearance in seven years when UH plays the University of Portland in a CIT first-round game Tuesday night at the Stan Sheriff Center. UH loses one senior starter from its 18-12 team.

The three-year-old CIT is the youngest of the four postseason Division I basketball tournaments approved by the NCAA. In addition to the NCAA Tournament (68 teams) and National Invitation Tournament (32), there are the 24-team CIT and the 16-team, four-year-old College Basketball Invitational.

Missouri State, which won the 2010 CIT, and Old Dominion, which took the 2009 title, both say that playing in the event led to even more successful finishes in succeeding seasons.

"It was a great opportunity for us since we had a young team, and it is part of why we’re back in the NCAA Tournament," said Carol Hudson, ODU sports information director.

The Monarchs were 18-16 in 2009, advanced to the NCAAs in 2010 at 27-9 and will return to the NCAAs this year at 27-6 as two-time Colonial Athletic Association champions.

Missouri State was the seventh-place team in the Missouri Valley Conference when it went to the CIT last year and is hopeful of an NCAA or NIT bid this year at 25-8.

"We were very young (one senior starter) and playing in the CIT was great for us because it gave us a running start into this year," said Rick Kindhart, assistant athletic director for Missouri State.

"It gave us a chance to play some more games in a win-or-go-home environment that helped us for this year and kept our name out there for recruiting," Kindhart said.

UH is expected to pay approximately $50,000 to host the game. That will cover the fee to the CIT and underwrite travel for a 22-member group from Portland.

UH athletic director Jim Donovan estimated the school needs a crowd of 3,700-4,400 to recoup its investment. Tickets are priced $4-$18 for season-ticket holders and $5-$24 for others.

UH’s turnstile average this season was 3,958, and it averaged about $43,400 per game in ticket revenue, according to unaudited figures.

Donovan said no decision has been made on whether UH will permit the game to be televised locally.

"I’ll make a decision Monday evening," Donovan said. "If we’ve broken even, I don’t have a problem (with TV). But if we’re still short, I’m not gonna (let them) televise it."

Donovan said he believed the gamble on hosting was worth it for a couple of reasons: "I really wanted to get a home game for academic reasons because this team has already spent so much time on the road and having them here means more class time instead of missing another week," Donovan said.

"In addition, it is an opportunity for our three seniors, who haven’t had an opportunity to play in the postseason, to do it at home. And it will be a ‘mahalo’ for our fans," Donovan said. "That’s why I tried so hard to get a home game."

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