It was a very eventful Sunday for the UNC Asheville basketball programs.
The men’s team found out it was traveling across the country to play in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament, while the women’s bid to win a third straight trip to the NCAA tourney came up short in the Big South Conference tournament’s championship game.
Coach Nick McDevitt’s Bulldogs, earning a No. 8 seed NIT berth after capturing the BSC regular-season title, will play No. 1 Southern California (23-11) at 11 p.m. (EST) Tuesday on ESPN2.
Asheville (21-12) hasn’t played in 10 days since losing in the semifinal round of the BSC tournament.
The Bulldogs are playing in the NIT for the second time (they lost to Ohio State in 2008) and are in postseason play for the seventh time in the past 16 years, which includes four trips to the NCAAs (2003, 2011, 2012 and 2016) and an appearance in the CollegeInsider.com tourney last year.
Southern Cal was expected to be an at-large selection for the NCAAs; coach Andy Enfield told ESPN he was “shocked” that his Trojans were left out of the 68-team field.
USC finished second in the Pac 12, reached the league’s tournament title game and had an RPI of 23 and strength of schedule of 37.
Tuesday’s winner would play either No. 4 Western Kentucky or No. 5 Boston College.
The third-seeded Asheville women had won nine straight BSC tourney games over three years before losing 60-42 to No. 1 Liberty on the Flames’ homecourt Sunday in the league title game.
The Bulldogs trailed just 39-34 going into the final period but got blitzed by the Flames (24-9), who outscored the visitors 21-8 in the fourth quarter.
Seniors Khalia Webb (13 points) and Bree Fitzgerald were both named to the all-tournament team. They were the leaders of a program that won 61 games over the past three seasons that included a BSC regular-season title and two trips to the NCAA tourney under coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick.