March 16, 2011
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By John Denton
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - In the eyes of UCF men's basketball coach Donnie Jones, success sometimes can breed even more success. And the coach is hoping that UCF's appearance in the College Basketball Invitational will pave the way for the Knights to play in the NCAA Tournament next season.
``There are some really good teams in there in the alignment and I think six of the teams that were in the CBI last year are in the NCAA Tournament this year,'' Jones said. ``With our team being young and returning a lot of guys - perhaps all the starting five for next season - it's a great opportunity for us. This group of guys has never been invited to the postseason before, so this is great.''
The Knights (19-11) will be gunning for their 20th win of the season tonight when they host St. Bonaventure (16-14) in first-round play of the CBI at UCF Arena at 8 p.m. It is UCF's first postseason home game since moving to Division I.
More Division I college basketball teams don't make the postseason than do make it, and for that reason alone the Knights feel fortunate to still be alive and competing.
``There are 200-and-something teams that are not playing. We are just happy to be one of the select few teams that still are playing,'' UCF standout guard Marcus Jordan said. ``(The postseason bid) means a lot. Not a lot of teams get to play in the postseason. Since we are playing at home, it is going to be a great atmosphere. We are going to try to get a win.''
UCF's fanbase responded well to this season's stirring run to a 14-0 start and a spot in the national rankings, and the hope is that the Knights will be playing in front of another large crowd tonight at UCF Arena. A school-record 114,142 (an average of 6,714 per game) filled UCF Arena this season and 10 of the 15 biggest crowds in school history came this season.
``(This home game) is a credit to our fans,'' Jones said. ``We've had great fan support all year long. To be able to host a game here, in front of our fans, is a great opportunity.''
The CBI includes teams like Oregon (a winner against Stanford, Washington and UCLA), Miami (Ohio) (a winner against Xavier), Rhode Island (a winner versus Boston College), Duquesne (which beat No. 23 Temple), Davidson (a victor against Nebraska) and Austin Peay (which lost in overtime to Memphis).
St. Bonaventure beat St. John's 67-66 on Dec. 7. The Bonnies are led by 6-foot-9, 225-pound junior power forward Andrew Nicholson, who averaged 20.8 points and 7.4 rebounds a game this season. Jones saw St. Bonaventure's talent first hand last year when he was the coach at Marshall and his former team beat the Bonnies. He knows that tonight's game will be a stiff test for the Knights.
Most of all, Jones is just happy that the season is still alive for this UCF team. Jones has been preaching that he is trying to build a program and not just a good team at UCF. This postseason bid, he hopes, will lead to another next season and will help the building process at UCF.
``We've gone through the highs and lows and we were disappointed by coming up short in the conference tournament. But now we have a chance in postseason play and sort of get a second life again,'' he said.
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.