It was strange enough last year when the CBI was founded and gave us an extra postseason basketball tournament to ignore along with the NIT —- and with a bizarre best-of-3 championship round, too.
Now here comes another March tournament —- the CollegeInsider.com Postseason tournament.
To which the appropriate question is this: Why?
Well, here’s the reason from a press release sent out a little earlier this afternoon:
During the 2007-08 season 67 teams, that finished .500 or better, did not participate in postseason play. Eleven of those 67 teams won 20 or more games, with an additional 20 teams amassing at least 18 wins. The CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament will provide a second season for 16 deserving college basketball programs.
Well, that’s one way to look at it.
Another is to say that, will all respect to Tim O’Shea, Craig Robinson and their respective programs at the time, the earth would not have spun off its axis if Ohio and Brown hadn’t met in the CBI last year.
And it certainly wasn’t a crime against humanity that 67 teams with winning records ended their seasons with a loss in the conference tournament or just a regular-season game.
Seriously, since when did everyone have to be a winner? It’s a silly question, obviously, in a world where no child is allegedly left behind.
Football is already ridiculed for its hefty number of bowl games, all but the national title game a glorified exhibition that serves as a reward for mediocre-or-better seasons. That’s a bar so low you can step over it these days. Well, unless you’re Syracuse, anyway.
If there is a constant complaint of college basketball coaches that rings true, it is how their football counterparts are rewarded for a .500 season while they themselves are ridiculed.
As is often the case, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg summed it up well in an interview last winter.
“Then the sad thing is if you don’t make the NCAA tournament and you make the NIT, people look at that like you have a disease,” Greenberg said. “If you make the Bee Pollen Weed Eater Sheraton Universal Hawaii Bowl, it’s a reason to celebrate. It’s a lot harder to make the NIT.”
So if you’re simply diseased for going to the NIT, what sort contagion must you be perceived to be when you earn a spot elsewhere?
This latest tournament is clearly a well-intentioned idea with the support of some impressive people. The selection committee includes Nolan Richardson, Gene Keady, Jim Phelan and Hugh Durham, among others.
But just for fun, here’s a full accounting of the teams that won at least 19 games last year and didn’t play in the postseason: Arkansas-Little Rock, Cal State Northridge, East Tennessee State, Georgia Southern, IUPUI, Lamar, Loyola, New Mexico State, Niagara, North Texas, Northern Arizona, Pacific, Sam Houston State, Southern Mississippi, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, Wagner, Western Michigan, Wright State.
That’s 19 teams. What of the three “deserving” teams that don’t make the cut for the 16-team field? Or, worse yet, of the 17-15ish programs or brand-name teams with losing records who happen to receive an invite instead?
What, also, of the costs to transport teams, especially with money tight? And what of the demand from the public for such an event?
The NIT did a great thing a few years back, promising spots to regular-season conference champions who happened to fall in their league tournament. Those are teams that earned the chance to play beyond the first week of March, and it is a just reward for the Morgan States and UNC Ashevilles who happened to stumble once after four fine months of solid play.
Beyond that, though, the addition of extra tournaments just means college basketball is adopting more and more of the largesse of its football counterparts. And as a result, going to the postseason just doesn’t mean what it used to.
—- Patrick Stevens