YSU accepts CIT invite

YOUNGSTOWN – Coach Jerry Slocum had a feeling after Friday’s Horizon League quarterfinal loss to Wright State.

He was quick to settle down his team and give them the good news.

The Youngstown State men’s basketball team (17-15) had a good shot of making the 32-team CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

“He knew right off the bat,” YSU junior guard Kendrick Perry said.

Then, the Penguins got the official word on Monday – they would host a first-round game this coming Tuesday against an opponent to be named later. Game time is slated for 7:05 p.m.

The official CIT bracket comes out following the NCAA Tournament bracket, but Slocum said it could be finalized by Saturday.

YSU shelled out $35,000 for the first-round game.

“The fact the university would do that for us, it speaks of where we’re going,” Slocum said. “We’re hoping a lot of people come out and it’s not a financial burden to the university. We get 2,500 or 3,000 in here, it shows the university is going to support us. It takes away about 75 percent of the cost of hosting it. Maybe if people come out, they could host a second-round (game).

“That speaks to their commitment to the Valley and, obviously, a commitment to our program.”

Not since former coach Dom Rosselli, the namesake of the YSU floor, mentored the Penguins to the NCAA Division II Tournament following the 1976-77 has YSU been in postseason play.

The Penguins became a Division I school to start the 1981-82 season.

“I think it’s tremendous,” Slocum said. “The exciting thing for me is to do something YSU has never done before at the Division I level. The practical side for me is the last couple of weeks we haven’t had a full team together.”

Perry was the last piece to the YSU puzzle. He has been out the past couple of weeks with a knee injury. He finally played during the Wright State game.

“We might go into this tournament for the first time in five weeks with a full squad in terms of being healthy,” Slocum said.

The CIT first-round games are March 18-20, while second-round games are March 22-24. The quarterfinals are March 26-27, while the semifinals are March 29-30. The title game is April 2.

Teams from the Atlantic 10, America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial Athletic Association, Conference USA, Great West, Horizon League, Independents, Ivy League, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot League, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Southland, Southwestern Athletic, Summit League, Sun Belt, Western Athletic and West Coast are part of this tournament.

Mercer won last year’s championship.

YSU, given its druthers, would be playing in the Horizon League championship game. However, being in the CIT was too good to pass up, Slocum said.

“There’s 225 teams that would like to be doing what we’re doing,” he said. “We are in the top third of the NCAAs Division I college basketball that’s getting a chance to play in the postseason.

“I don’t take this lightly. We’re ecstatic with this opportunity. We’d like to be playing in the conference championship game (Tuesday) and fighting for an NCAA bid, but we’re thrilled with this opportunity.”

Considering YSU opens the CIT at the Beeghly Center makes it special for Perry.

“It shows the support our community has in us,” he said. “It shows how dedicated our community is as well as our basketball program. It’s truly an honor to get a home basketball game in front of people who support you night in and night out.”

This is a far from a pinnacle for YSU, Slocum said.

“We hope that this parlays into a tradition and that we are growing and going in the right direction,” he said. “To me, that’s the exciting thing about it.”