It's a pleasant spring-break surprise.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball season will continue despite the quarterfinal loss in the Southern Conference tournament last Saturday.
The Moc will face former -- and future -- SoCon rival East Tennessee State on Tuesday in Johnson City in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
"I think any time you can continue your season and we can continue practicing and spend time around each other, it helps," first-year UTC coach Will Wade said from Lake Charles, La., where he was about to watch signee Shaq Preston play in the Louisiana high school final four. "I'm excited about it. Our players are excited about it. It gives us another opportunity to play and to play a longstanding rival. I think it's a positive all the way around around."
The Mocs are 18-14 and earned the No. 2 seed for the SoCon tournament after being the preseason pick to finish seventh. ETSU's Buccaneers, who are about to rejoin the SoCon after exiting the league when it dropped football after the 2005 year, went 18-15 and 10-8 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
"We'll hope to restoke the rivalry on Tuesday and again as we play them twice next season," Wade waid. "It's a good competitive rivalry between the two best teams in the SoCon back in the day. They weren't playing for seventh or eight place. They were playing for first."
UTC leads the all-time series 42-32. The Mocs and Bucs last played each other on Nov. 17, 2009, when UTC won 85-76 in McKenzie Arena.
"Johnny [Taylor] filled us in on some of the history," Wade said. "We'll educate the players on it as we get closer to the game."
The Mocs, who are on spring break this week, will reunite Saturday evening for a light workout before preparing in full on Sunday for the game Tuesday. Wade said he did not know the potential second-round opponent.
UTC has not played beyond the SoCon men's tournament since reaching the NCAA tournament in 2009. And it has not played in a non-NCAA men's tournament since 1987 in the NIT.
"We'll practice Sunday and Monday," Wade said. "That's a good thing."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.