Despite losing eight of its past nine games, the Mercer men's basketball team is headed back to the postseason for the fifth straight season.
Mercer announced Thursday that it will take part in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament after a 19-14 season, including a 1-1 record in the Southern Conference Tournament. The 32-team field has not yet been finalized, and Mercer's first-round opponent will be announced at a later date.
It marks the Bears' second appearance in the CIT, and they won the tournament championship after the 2011-12 season, beating Utah State for the title. Since then, Mercer has played in the NIT (2013), the NCAA Tournament (2014) and the College Basketball Invitational (2015). The Bears went 1-1 in each of those tournaments.
Mercer is the only program in the country to record wins in all four postseason tournaments in the past four years.
This year's Mercer team started strong at 14-4 overall and 4-1 in conference play and was 17-6 overall and 7-3 in conference play before senior Jibri Bryan was killed. And before the next game, starters Jestin Lewis and Desmond Ringer were suspended. Those suspensions haven't been addressed since the initial announcement, and while Lewis is a senior, it hasn't been announced if Ringer, a sophomore, will return next season.
Mercer won its first game after Bryan's death and the suspensions, beating The Citadel, but it lost its final seven games of the regular season, including six by single digits. The Bears beat The Citadel to open the Southern Conference Tournament but lost to East Tennessee State in the quarterfinals.