Following his team's most recent game, which was a 60-57 defeat in the championship game of the Summit League Tournament, IPFW men's basketball coach Tony Jasick lamented that his time with this particular team was nearing an end.
“This is a heck of a group, man,” Jasick said. “I wish that it was Christmas right now and we had another 20 games with them.”
Jasick isn't getting “another 20 games” with his guys, but an additional five is not beyond comprehension.
The Mastodons (24-10) have accepted a spot in the 32-team CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) and will open play against Akron (21-12) Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Gates Sports Center.
"Historically, Akron is a really, really good program," Jasick said. "They are big, physical, and athletic. They have two guys that statistically really score the ball. And obviously, they are well coached."
I say an additional five games is a very real possibility, because this tournament was made for teams like IPFW's 2013-14 version, which is a really good group from often one-bid (to the NCAA Tournament) leagues.
“We're extremely excited to have a chance to compete in the postseason,” Jasick said. “Once you get to this time of the year, there are very few college basketball teams that are still playing. For us to be in that group of teams that are still playing, I think is extremely significant.”
For this program, which is in its infancy still at the NCAA Division I level, any opportunity to garner attention in a postseason national tournament is valued by the IPFW administration, coaches, players and fans.
Following his team's loss to North Dakota State at the aforementioned tournament, Jasick met with his seniors (Pierre Bland, Luis Jacobo, and Michael Kibiloski) to run the idea of continuing their season by them. They “were on board with it,” and so Jasick and the team then met with the IPFW following that had traveled to Sioux Falls, S.D. for the Summit League Tournament.
“It was an exciting scene,” Jasick said.
It should really be “exciting” once the players and fans realize that the Mastodons – if they play to their ability – have a legitimate shot at winning this event.
The CIT is in its sixth season and its past champions include programs such as East Carolina, Mercer, Santa Clara, Missouri State, and Old Dominion. Certainly good teams, but it's not like the Mastodons will have to beat Duke and UCLA en route to the championship.
The Mastodon leadership made it known to the tournament organizers that they would be thrilled to host this event, and that, coupled with several other factors, have played a role in IPFW opening this event at the Gates Sports Center.
“With our record and where we finished in our league (second place both in the regular season and tournament),” Jasick explained, “and the fact that we were excited about the opportunity to host, made us an appealing venue.”
It has been a season of trailblazing to never-before-achieved feats for the IPFW program. The Mastodons had never before finished second in the conference, with each victory they set a new program record for wins, Jasick's program had never advanced to the title game of the league tournament, which gave them the opportunity to get national exposure on ESPN2, another first.
Now, with the postseason berth, which is the first at the Division I level for the Mastodons, and only second time in school history, it is just the latest in a never-ending series of remarkable accomplishments.
“The historical significance (of this), I don't think that should be taken lightly at all,” Jasick said. “If you look at where the program has been over the last 40 to 50 years, to where it is today, a lot of people were involved in getting it to this point. But certainly our players deserve a ton of recognition and credit for that.”
Akron finished second in the Mid-American Conference East Division. This will be the ninth time in Akron coach Keith Dambrot's decade with the program that the Zips that his team has earned a postseason berth.