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CHICAGO — Despite not having played a game since Nov. 28, Indiana University South Bend will be seeking to defend its Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament championship when the 15-team, 14-game week-long tournament commences Tuesday night at seven sites.  Just add that anomaly to the list of many oddities that have all been a part of the start-stop-start-stop 2020-21 campaign.

Not knowing how the season would fare and how many games teams would get in, the league office made the decision early in the campaign to include all 15 teams in the league tournament for the first time unless they opted out.  Past precedent has been inviting the top eight teams to vie for the title and an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament.

Indiana South Bend was as close as one could get to having to pull out with the Indiana University system shutting down all of its basketball programs until Feb. 1 with Indiana South Bend having to wait even longer due to county and school restrictions.  Feb. 23 – the first day of the tournament – is the first day that the Titans have been cleared to return to play after starting out the season 2-0.

Interestingly enough, Indiana South Bend, who will come in as the No. 15 and final seed, won’t have to travel far for its first-round matchup going just down the road to meet No. 2 seed Holy Cross College (13-5).

The Saints as well as top-seeded Olivet Nazarene University (13-3) have already earned a berth to the newly-formatted NAIA Postseason Tournament by placing in the top two spots in the league during the regular season.  The third bid goes to the CCAC Tournament champion or the third-seeded team in the field if Olivet Nazarene or Holy Cross also claim the tournament crown.  In that case, St. Ambrose University would gain a golden ticket to the next round.

As for the NAIA National Tournament, there is a whole new look starting with there now being only one division instead of two.  There also will no longer be 32 teams converging on one site.  Instead, there will now be 48 qualifiers that will advance to one of 16 Opening Round sites, which will be made up of three teams each.  The highest-rated team will get a bye at each of those sites before battling one of the other two teams for the right to go to the final site, Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.  A total of 16 teams – one from each Opening Round site – will gain entry to the finals.

The seedings for this year’s CCAC Tournament also went through a different process.  With the probability that not all teams would finish with the same amount of league games played in the originally scheduled round-robin format, the league’s coaches opted to use a rating system as well as its oversight committee to determine the seeds rather than going by straight winning percentage.

That is what allowed Holy Cross to jump over St. Ambrose University for the No. 2 seed, along with its win in their head-to-head matchup and Holy Cross also being the only team to knock off Olivet Nazarene.

That put St. Ambrose (14-5) as the No. 3 seed with the rest of the first-round hosts being No. 4 seed Saint Xavier University (8-8), No. 5 Governors State University (9-10), No. 6 Trinity Christian College (9-8), No. 7 Lincoln College (8-9) and No. 8 University of St. Francis (14-9).

Those that will be traveling on Tuesday will be No. 9 seed Trinity International University (9-7), No. 10 Roosevelt University (2-6), No. 11 Indiana University Northwest (5-8), No. 12 Judson University (5-13), No. 13 Cardinal Stritch University (1-16), No. 14 Calumet College of St. Joseph (1-8) and Indiana South Bend.

Olivet Nazarene was the only team to play all of the league teams – with the exception of Indiana South Bend – and the Tigers were near perfect, only dropping the 69-64 decision to Holy Cross on Jan. 20.  Since that game, they have won 10 in a row and thus, the choice to also claim the tourney title.

With all 15 teams in the tournament, it also creates for a four-round bracket with all qualifiers except Olivet Nazarene starting out on Tuesday.  The rest of the tournament follows in succession every second day with the quarterfinal round on Thursday (Feb. 25), the semifinals on Saturday (Feb. 27) and the championship next Monday (March 1).  The higher-seeded team hosts each round.

The complete schedule follows:

Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Game #1: No. 9 seed Trinity International (9-7) at No. 8 seed St. Francis (14-9) — Time TBA
Game #2: No. 13 seed Cardinal Stritch (1-16) at No. 4 seed Saint Xavier (8-8) — Time TBA
Game #3: No. 12 seed Judson (5-13) at No. 5 seed Governors State (9-10) — Time TBA
Game #4: No. 15 seed Indiana South Bend (2-0) at No. 2 seed Holy Cross (13-5) — Time TBA
Game #5: No. 10 seed Roosevelt (2-6) at No. 7 seed Lincoln (8-9) — Time TBA
Game #6: No. 14 seed Calumet St. Joseph (1-8) at No. 3 seed St. Ambrose (14-5) — Time TBA
Game #7: No. 11 seed Indiana Northwest (5-8) at No. 6 seed Trinity Christian (9-8) — Time TBA

Thursday, February 25, 2021 (at site of highest remaining seed)
Game #8: Winner-Game #1 at No. 1 seed Olivet Nazarene (13-3) — Time TBA
Game #9: Winner-Game #2 vs. Winner-Game #3 — Time TBA
Game #10: Winner-Game #4 vs. Winner-Game #5 — Time TBA
Game #11: Winner-Game #6 vs. Winner-Game #7 — Time TBA

Saturday, February 27, 2021 (at site of highest remaining seed)
Game #12: Winner-Game #8 vs. Winner-Game #9 — Time TBA
Game #13: Winner-Game #10 vs. Winner-Game #11 — Time TBA

Monday, March 1, 2021 (at site of highest remaining seed)
Game #14: Winner-Game #12 vs. Winner-Game #13 — Time TBA