CHICAGO- College basketball’s full slate of postseason tournaments (NCAA, National Invitation Tournament, College Insider Tournament, College Basketball Invitational) were announced on Sunday and three Chicago-area teams will be participating. Loyola-Chicago, Notre Dame, and Illinois-Chicago will all have their seasons extended for at least one more game. Last year there were five local teams (Northwestern, Notre Dame, Illinois, Illinois State and Illinois-Chicago) who participated in March Madness with historical significance. Northwestern made it’s first ever NCAA Tournament appearance while Notre Dame made it’s third consecutive appearance. The 2017 NIT marked the third postseason berth for current Illinois State head coach Dan Muller, Illinois earned it’s first postseason spot since 2015, and the 2017 CBI marked UIC’s first postseason trip since 2013.
This year’s group has also made significant accomplishments….. Here is the lineup that Chicago will present for 2018:
Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (28-5, 15-3 Missouri Valley Conference)-
This year’s Ramblers arrived on the scene by defeating the then-fifth ranked Florida Gators in Gainesville back in December. From there they complied a 19-4 record, finished the season on a 10-game winning streak, and claimed both the MVC regular season and tournament championships along the way. Loyola will have to prove themselves again as they get the 11th seed in the South Region where they draw the sixth-seeded Miami-Florida Hurricanes who are currently ranked 24th in the AP Top 25 poll. LUC has been snubbed by the Top 25 all season, so beating a ranked team here would make a huge statement. We’ll find out if Porter Moser’s squad still has the magic on Thursday afternoon.
While this is Loyola’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1985, this is the Ramblers second postseason year with Moser at the helm. Back in 2015, Loyola got invited to the CBI and won the trophy. It was the first postseason title for any Chicago team since the Ramblers 1963 squad won the National Championship. The last Chicago team to win a conference title before now was Chicago State who claimed the Great West Championship in 2013. To some degree Loyola has already drawn comparisons to last year’s Northwestern squad, the full NCAA Tournament bracket can be found here.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (20-14, 8-10 Atlantic Coast Conference)-
Under Mike Brey this will be the just the fifth NIT appearance for the Irish, but the first since 2009. In between, Notre Dame has played in 12 NCAA Tournaments and got as far as the Elite Eight in both 2015 and 2016. With forward Bonzie Colson returning for his senior year there were high expectations in South Bend, Indiana. But after Colson missed nearly three months with a broken foot, the Irish went 6-9 in his absence and finished near the bottom of the ACC standings as a result. The Irish won their opening game in the ACC Tournament against Pittsburgh last week but it wasn’t enough to secure an NCAA bid.
They did however earn a No. 1 seed in this year’s NIT which means they’ll open up with a home game. They’ll host the No. 8 seed Hampton on Tuesday night. This years full NIT bracket can be found here.
Illinois-Chicago Flames (17-15, 12-6 Horizon League)-
After a 5-10 start to the season, UIC turned on the jets once conference play began and finished the season by winning 15 of their last 19 games. They earned the No. 3 seed in this year’s Horizon League Tournament which earned them a first round bye. Unfortunately they were eliminated by Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the quarterfinals. Had it not been for the early season struggles the Flames could have gotten an NIT bid. But as Steve McClain continues to turn this program around, he’ll take any postseason bid that comes UIC’s way.
That is why the Flames will happily accept their invite to this year’s CIT. They’ll host St. Francis (PA) at the UIC Pavilion on Wednesday night. After winning just five games two seasons ago, McClain has guided his team to a 35-34 record with two postseason appearances since then. In 2017, UIC participated in the CBI where they reached the semifinals before being eliminated by Coastal Carolina. Before McClain was hired they played in the 2013 CIT where they defeated Chicago State in the first round before falling to Northern Iowa in the second round.
The last time that Illinois-Chicago made consecutive postseason appearances was 2002-2004 when they played in two NCAA Tournaments (2002 and 2004), and earned a spot in the NIT (2003). Things are definitely looking brighter on Chicago’s near west side.
This year the CIT is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary, more information can be found here.