This has been a frustrating season for UCF Men's Basketball. No one would dispute that. They have been ravaged by injuries, a fact that should be in the first graph of this team's epitaph, whenever it is written. The players are just hoping the time for it isn't here and now. None of them want Friday's 28-point loss to Houston, one of the Knights' worst performances of the season, to be the final impression this group leaves. UCF allowed a season-high 84 points and shot just 33 percent from the field.
So, is that how it ends? We will find out tonight when the NIT and CBI brackets are announced. Those are the Knights' two best possible paths to postseason play, but both of them come with potential roadblocks.
Entering Friday's game versus the Cougars, UCF was commonly seen as a No. 7 seed in many NIT bracket projections. However, they have received a lot of bad breaks since then. The NIT (National Invitation Tournament) automatically accepts any team that won its regular-season championship but didn't earn an NCAA Tournament bid. And in the past two days, regular-season champs in one-bid leagues such as Vermont, Hampton, Louisiana, University of California-Davis, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Southeast Louisiana were all knocked out of their respective conference tournaments. With those teams able to fall back into the NIT, it appears the Knights have been crowded out of the 32-team field. They were not included in five different NIT bracket projections that were updated either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
There are two other lesser-known postseason tournaments: The CBI (College Basketball Invitational) and the CIT (CollegeInsider.com Tournament). However, you can pretty much forget about the latter since the CIT generally does not invite teams from what it considers "major conferences; the American is included in that group of 10. Thus, there is the CBI, of which the Knights reached the semifinals in 2011. But the catch here is that any program must pay $50,000 to participate.
It's unknown if UCF would be willing to pay that price. Of course, to those who have put in the time and sweat this season, no price is too exorbitant to continue life as a Knight, even for only one more game.
"I think any postseason is an honor, like [head coach Johnny Dawkins] is telling us," senior forward A.J. Davis said following Friday's defeat. "Just because we didn't make the NCAA Tournament, I think just to be able to compete and still be able to play the game of basketball with this team and this university would be an honor, and I would be proud just to compete for this university and put this jersey back on."