Bruce Pearl says Auburn has been in a dialog with the College Basketball Invitational committee (photo: USA TODAY Sports)
Color me embarrassed or color me stupid. Either way, when news broke yesterday that Bruce Pearl might consider Auburn’s participation in the College Basketball Invitational Tournament, I have to admit I didn’t know what the CBI was. I certainly know about the once prestigious National Invitational Tournament, which in recent years has been relegated to something akin to a minor bowl game for those teams not good enough to be invited to the NCAA Tourney, a.k.a. “The Big Dance.” But the CBI, what’s that?
A quick look at its web site tells us the tournament started in 2008. Tulsa was the first CBI Champion, and the University of Nevada, Reno defeated Morehead State to win the crown in 2016.
According to the Tourney’s home page, the CBI selects 16 teams that fail to receive an invitation to the major tourney (NCAA) or the minor tourney (NIT). Like the NIT, teams compete on home courts in a single-elimination format. The final two teams play a best-two-out-of-three championship series.
Much like minor bowl invitations, the minimum threshold for an NIT invitation is low. Only a .500 season is required to qualify for selection. So some of the teams the CBI considers are on the .500 bubble, and others are under .500. Sounds prestigious doesn’t it? I’m sorry, I can’t understand the need for a minor—minor national tournament despite the fact that this year’s championship game will be picked up by ESPNU.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to be negative. Anyone who has followed this column knows I’ve been accused of being a sunshine pumper. But the idea of a tourney comprised of teams that can’t even qualify for the NIT just doesn’t have much appeal to this fan.
I’m sure all the arguments used for the plethora of bowl games can be applied here: what does it hurt, the schools get extra practice time, and the players get to play for a trophy. That last one has the ring of the present day little league practice of giving every one a trophy. Used to be that trophies were awarded for superior achievement. Nowadays, if you participate you
earn deserve a reward.
Would Auburn accept such an invitation? Bruce Pearl has indicated it’s a strong possibility. “They’ve contacted us,” said Pearl. “And we’re in dialog with them, so yeah … that’s something we would look at.”
While there have been some well known schools to play in the CBI, including Loyola, Oregon, and Texas A&M, others have elected not to accept invitations, including Indiana in 2014. I support coach Pearl, and I’m glad he’s at Auburn, but if an invite comes to play in the CBI I hope the school will turn the offer down—participation trophies notwithstanding.
Of course it will be a moot point if the Tigers finish strong and make the NIT field.
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