March 15, 2008
HOUSTON - The University of Houston men's basketball team accepted an invitation to compete at the 2008 College Basketball Invitational, director of athletics Dave Maggard and head coach Tom Penders announced Saturday evening.
While the Cougars' first-round opponent and time have not yet been announced, UH knows it will make its first CBI appearance on the road. The Cougars' opponent and other game information is expected to be announced by Sunday night.
The 16-team postseason event will be staged by The Gazelle Group, which is based in Princeton, N.J., and runs the 2K Sports College Hoop Classic that benefits Coaches vs. Cancer and the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic.
The teams will be invited along the same criteria used by the NCAA and NIT -- overall and conference records and late-season play.
Four geographic brackets will be balanced competitively. Television arrangements will be announced as they are confirmed.
It will be a single-elimination tournament through the first two rounds and the semifinals, all played at campus sites. The Championship Series will be a best-of-three with the higher-seeded team playing at home in the first game and, if necessary, the third.
The first round is scheduled for March 18-19. The Championship Series will be March 31, April 2 and April 4.
The Cougars earned the postseason berth after finishing third in Conference USA and posting a 22-9 overall record. It was the program's highest win total since the 1991-92 team finished 25-6.
The Cougars also recorded a program-best 11 wins in Conference USA play and reached double digits in C-USA wins for the second straight season. That marked the first time since 1990-92 that UH accomplished that feat.
This will be the third time in the last four years that the Cougars will compete in the postseason after earning NIT invitations in 2005 and 2006. It also marks the first time since 1990-93 that the Cougars will compete in the postseason three times during a four-year stretch.
The invitation will be nothing new for Penders, who will guide his 19th team to the postseason during his storied 34-year history as a head coach. Penders, who recorded his 600th win and competed in his 1,000th game as a head coach earlier this season, said he was excited about his and the Cougars' first appearance in the CBI.
"This program has come a long way during the last four years, and this is a great opportunity to be a part of a prestigious new tournament," Penders said. "Obviously, we are very happy to make the postseason in three of the last four years."
With their most recent postseason berth, Penders and his coaching staff have brought the Cougar program a long way. In the four years prior to Penders' arrival at UH, the Cougars posted a combined 44-73 record with only one NIT appearance in 2002.
Since Penders joined the UH program in 2004, the Cougars have posted a combined 79-48 record with Penders setting a school record for the most wins by a head coach through his first four seasons.
It was the enthusiasm of CBI administrators and the excitement of competing in a new college basketball postseason event that drew Penders and his Cougar team to the CBI.
"They really wanted the University of Houston be a part of this thing. We felt this was a great tournament this year and was only going to get better and better in the years to come," Penders said. "I am sure that other schools will feel the same way as we do."
Maggard echoed those sentiments.
"Coach Penders and the players want to play another game, and I support them in their wish to continue playing this season," Maggard said. "Rick Giles, president of the Gazelle Group, has great credibility in the college basketball world, and we believe this will be a highly regarded tournament in the future."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.