The season is over for the Radford men’s basketball team.
Radford coach Mike Jones talked with the organizers of the College Basketball Invitational and the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, but neither option panned out for the Highlanders.
“They weren’t able to work things out the way we needed them to, so therefore we just didn’t do it,” Jones said Monday. “We’d always like to play in the postseason. … We would’ve loved to have participated this year, but it just didn’t work out.”
The Highlanders went 22-11 overall and tied Campbell for first place in the Big South with a 12-4 league mark.
Campbell swept Radford this year, so the Camels claimed the No. 1 seed in the Big South tournament and the league’s automatic NIT berth. Campbell will visit UNC Greensboro in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday.
Gardner-Webb beat host Radford in the Big South tournament title game on March 10, so Gardner-Webb earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Gardner-Webb will play Virginia in the NCAAs.
Jones said he talked with The Gazelle Group, which runs the 16-team CBI tournament, last week. Radford last competed in the CBI in 2015.
“They want you to commit to getting into an exempt [regular-season] tournament down the road, and I just wasn’t comfortable doing that,” Jones said. “We have to bring in a certain amount of money [to the school], so we’ve got to be smart about the tournaments that we choose. And I just wasn’t ready to do that.”
The Highlanders played in the Gotham Classic, which is one of the tournaments run by The Gazelle Group, last November. That was a delayed obligation from Radford’s 2015 CBI appearance.
Radford earned $100,000 for playing Notre Dame and three other teams in the Gotham Classic.
“We probably could’ve made a lot more if we had played them individually,” Jones said. “It wasn’t ideal, and that’s one of the reasons why we put it off a couple years.”
Jones also was down on the CBI for logistical reasons. The Radford players went home for spring break and did not return to campus until Sunday. The CBI begins with one first-round game Tuesday and seven first-round games Wednesday.
“We knew we were not going to be in the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, so we let them have their spring break,” Jones said. “They weren’t getting back until Sunday, which would have been too late to practice. And the games started as early as Tuesday. … They couldn’t guarantee us we were going to get a later-in-the-week game. They wouldn’t guarantee us where the game would be. It was going to be tough to do.”
Big South member Longwood will host a CBI game Wednesday.
Jones said he did not ask to host a CBI game.
“We could only ask for a road game. We don’t host,” Jones said. “It used to be $30,000 to $50,000 [that a school must pay to the CBI] to host. Now they just take your gate receipts. So it’s different than it used to be; it’s less of an out-of-pocket expense for you. But we always request to go on the road.”
Twenty-six teams are competing in the CIT, including Big South members Hampton, Charleston Southern and Presbyterian. Hampton and Charleston Southern are hosting first-round games.
Jones said he told the CIT organizers that Radford was only interested in a road game and did not want to host a game. He said the CIT never called him back.
Is Jones disappointed there will be no postseason tournament for his team?
“It was disappointing losing in the championship game,” he said. “All the other disappointment pales in comparison to that one.”
Jones said he is “extremely proud” that the Highlanders, who topped the Big South’s preseason poll, wound up tying for the Big South regular-season title. It was the first time in 10 years that Radford either shared a regular-season crown or won it outright.
“That was a big-time accomplishment,” Jones said.
Radford, which made the 2018 NCAA Tournament, will have to replace two starters from this year’s team — Ed Polite Jr. (13.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg), who was named the Big South defensive player of the year and an All-Big South first-team pick as a senior, and graduate transfer Mawdo Sallah (5.6 ppg). Senior backups Caleb Tanner (8.2 ppg) and Tristan Owens (0.7 ppg) also must be replaced.
“We have good pieces coming back,” Jones said. “We have a terrific junior class that’ll be seniors next year. We have a couple guys sitting out. And we’re still recruiting. So we feel as though we can be in contention again next year.”
Jones is one of 25 finalists for the Skip Prosser Award, which is presented to a coach for both his basketball success and moral integrity.