GRIZ GRIT: Watering Down the Postseason

By Beacon Staff

Count me as one of those guys who think there are just too many basketball teams playing after a conference tournament determines a league champion, and subsequent entries into the NCAA championships are selected on an at-large basis.

But I also agree if a school has been selected to one of what now is several lesser known tournaments, the scores of which aren’t even covered on the ESPN crawl, teams are just about required to participate.

Now remember, just last year there was a move by the all-knowing NCAA, which I wrote about here, to expand the men’s tournament to 96 teams.

The organization argued that it would allow more mid-majors to participate in the prestigious event, when, in fact, in most cases it just makes more room for major conferences to pad their tournament participation. The Big East Conference’s 11 teams that participated this year are an example of that.

Now, granted, the Colonial Conference broke the mold by sending three teams to this year’s event, but that has proven to be the exception instead of the rule.

The NCAA has now taken over the National Invitational Tournament and, with its 32-team field, that already makes 100 teams, slightly less than one-third of participating schools, playing in a postseason national event.

Teams who win the regular season title, then fail to capture the league tournament championship automatically are entered into the NIT, which enjoys its own level of prestige somewhat because of its history. It is the oldest tournament, beginning in 1938.

But now a couple of alternative events have sprung up. There’s the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), which Montana played in for the first time this season, and the College Invitational Tournament (CIT).

The CBI, which broadcasts some games on HDNet, is a 16-team affair with a twist. The remaining top two teams engage in a best two-out-three playoff to determine a champion.

The CIT, some of which is broadcast on Fox Sports, is a 24-team affair with true seeding (1 vs. 16, etc.).

So now on the men’s side at least, we have 140 teams advancing to the postseason “national tournament” play and because your neighbor is going to accept an invitation if you don’t, a school just about is required to participate in the folly.

The University of Montana, for example, asked the CIT to wait and see if the Grizzlies were invited to the NIT, which they were not. But the selection group opted instead to extend the bid to Northern Arizona.

Weber State announced shortly after Montana beat them in the Big Sky Conference semi-final that not only was their season continuing with an invitation to play in the CBI, but the team was hosting a game at Dee Event Center.

However, when the Grizzlies were a late addition to the CBI field, Montana hosted Duquesne University, while the Wildcats were sent packing to Eugene to face Oregon.

There is no argument against the fact that additional games are a worthwhile reward for a solid season. And more competition benefits a team’s younger players.

There’s also something to be said for the way the tournaments are used in future marketing and recruiting efforts. But it just seems to me the field of postseason participants is watering down the field.

But then again I love college hoops and I’d just as soon watch games for eight or nine months instead of the better part of five.

Just sayin’.

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