College Basketball Invitational

College Basketball Invitational, cbi, cbi tournament, nit, cbi bracket, college basketball invitational tournament

Selection Sunday has arrived. By nightfall the field of 65 teams that will participate in the spectacle known as the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament will be revealed. The much-discussed “bubble” will burst.

In the olden days, those left out of the field of 65 would skulk off to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) for a couple of additional home games and, if they shake off the disappointment of missing the Big Dance and play well, a potential trip to Madison Square Garden for the NIT finals. Those days are gone. The 2007-2008 college basketball season features a new entrant into the post-season men’s basketball tournament market, the College Basketball Invitational, a sixteen team elimination tournament sponsored by the Gazelle Group, a sport consulting firm that organizes several early-season college basketball tournaments like the College Hoops Classic in November.

The College Basketball Invitational has a television contract, albeit with Fox College Sports which is available on cable television providers that have roughly 46 million subscribers (I have no idea if the Fox Sports Channel is part of the basic cable package on these providers). The games will be played at on-campus sites, and the championship “series” consists of three games in a home-away-home format to be played on March 31st, April 2nd and April 4th (if necessary). The addition of the College Basketball Invitational means that 113 Division I men’s basketball teams will participate in some sort of postseason tournament this season.

The existence of a new entrant in this market raises some interesting economic questions. This tournament is in direct competition for teams with the NIT, and it will be interesting to see if it is able to induce any teams to defect from the NIT field in the first year. I have no idea what sort of payouts are made by the NIT to participating schools, but they are likely larger than those offered by this start-up tourney. The winner of the College Basketball Invitational could host up to five additional post-season basketball games which could generate substantial additional revenues, if there is demand for tickets. The long-run viability of any new entrant into a sports market is inevitably tied to television revenues, so the value of the television contract with Fox College Sports will likely have a large impact on the long-run viability of the College Basketball Invitational. It will be interesting to see if it can survive. Anyone interested in joining a CBI pool?
This is the week in which copy machines in offices across America will be working overtime, and the Todds from Sales will be collecting money for "the pool." Every March, the randomness, excitement, and difficult to predict NCAA tournament brings out the latent gambler in all of us. Just like those grids on Super Bowl Sunday.

But why not photocopy brackets for the NIT, and the new Collegiate Basketball Invitational? Why not collect $5 for the women's bracket, or the Frozen Four? Half the people in bracket pools aren't college basketball fans anyway, so just because it's Virginia Commonwealth vs. Alabama-Birmingham and not Kansas vs. Georgetown doesn't make it a less exciting thing to bet on. The games aren't as good, but the gambling action is just as good, if not better.

Here are the New England teams playing in the post-season:

NCAA Championship Tournament:
The Huskies are the 4th seed in the Western Region. But they'll be playing their fist games in Tampa. They open up against San Diego on Friday. If they win, they'll face either Drake or Western Kentucky. UCLA is the #1 seed they're grouped with. Not surprisingly, UConn got a somewhat favorable seeding and placement. I hate UConn and hope they lose to Drake.

National Invitation Tournament:
The Minutemen went 21-10 and finished 3rd in the Atlantic 10, which earned them a #2 seed in the NIT. They'll host Stone Cold Stephen F. Austin University on Tuesday. Their grouping doesn't have a name, but if it did, it would be called "How the Mighty Have Fallen Region." It includes Maryland and Syracuse.

Rhode Island
The Rams had a promising beginning but couldn't take the big steps to get to the Big Dance. So they're stuck in the NIT as a 6 seed, facing Creighton on Tuesday night. URI began the season 14-1, with their only loss being a heartbreaker to Boston College. Losing close games would be a trend for the Rams, and they ended up 9th in the A-10 (which isn't as bad as it sounds, there are 14 teams in the A-10).

Collegiate Basketball Invitational:
The Brown Bears finished 2nd in the Ivy League and 19-9 overall. They're part of the 16 team CBI and will play Ohio University on Tuesday in Athens...Athens, OH.

Not listed is Boston College. That's not too surprising, but when you consider that 113 D-I teams made it into a post-season tournament, it really shows how much of a rebuilding season this was for the Eagles. Of the 12 teams in the ACC, 8 made it to a tournament (4 in the NCAA, 3 in the NIT, 1 in the CBI).

As a New England sports fan, I'm a little disappointed by these fields of tournaments. I'll root for URI in the NIT, but it's difficult to watch an entire NIT game and pretend to care. And UConn...well...the less said about them the better.

Remember the days when BC and/or UMass were forces in the NCAA tournament? Remember when underdog hopefuls like Vermont and Holy Cross would capture the imagination of New England for 2 hours? Now look what we're stuck with...UConn. Makes me sick.

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