March Madness is one of the most exciting sporting events each year without question. Nothing beats the thrill of seeing a school from a small conference knock off a power conference foe and destroy a multitude of brackets in a heartbeat. The best part is many of these NCAA Tournament teams proved their worth with strong regular season performances.
Only a small percentage of NCAA teams can actually make the 68-team field each year. That’s the way it should be. Playing well in the regular season should be rewarded.
With the proliferation of smaller postseason tournaments such as the College Basketball Invitational and the CollegeInsider Postseason Tournament, mediocrity is also being rewarded.
One glance at the field of either tournament in 2013 only reinforces this observation. The 16 team CBI is headlined by Texas and Purdue. Both teams finished with records below .500 during the 2012-13 season. That did not matter to CBI tournament organizers in their quest to draw brand names and make money. Any team who wants to pay a guarantee to host games can make the field.
The Gazelle Group – which runs the tournament – requires home teams to pay a sum of $35,000 for a first-round game, $50,000 for a quarterfinal and $75,000 per game for the semifinal and championship series. That’s a huge amount of money just to play in a postseason tournament that is considered a tier below the NCAA Tournament and the NIT.
It’s one reason why dozens of schools have rejected CBI bids over the past five years the tournament has been existence.
The CIT is no better. It was formed to give another postseason option to schools from several smaller conferences who did not earn a NCAA or NIT bid. The problem is that many of these schools did not need this option.
The lone automatic berth was awarded to Chicago State, the Great West Conference Champion. But the Cougars are hardly deserving of postseason play, coming in with an 11-21 record. Weber State (26-6) and Eastern Kentucky (24-9) are the only participants in the 32 team field with fewer than 10 losses.
Nothing about the CIT is necessary. The NIT guarantees all regular season conference champions an automatic berth if they do not receive an NCAA berth. If they are not good enough to go to the NCAA or the NIT, it should be time to end the season and focus on the next one.
Tournaments like the CBI and CIT serve as an extension of youth sports culture that awards participation ribbons and trophies to every team or athlete that plays. Some teams and athletes are going to perform better than others. There is no sense in trying to give everybody a chance to play in a national postseason tournament if they did not prove to be good enough to deserve that chance in the first place.
John Coon covers college basketball for a variety of publications, websites and wire services – including the Associated Press.You can follow him on twitter at @johncoonsports