All across America, the final decorations are being put into place. Vendors are on the way with last-minute popcorn and soda deliveries. Television crews are running their miles of production wire, making sure their broadcast goes off without a hitch while bringing this monumental event into everyone's home.
Yes, arenas are being prepared and are getting ready to open their doors so fans can flock in and cheer on their beloved teams as they fight their way through the tournament.
Oh wait. Not that tournament.
This tournament we speak of is comprised of teams that were deemed not good enough to qualify for the Big Dance. You know, the one that forces athletic directors to sit by the phone after the NCAA Tournament's 65-team field is unveiled, waiting for the head of the committee to call and extend an invitation. Heck, most coaches are thrilled to even get that phone call, figuring it's a way their team can get better. They say it's a way to build confidence by giving the younger players another game or two to gain some experience they hope proves valuable when the new season tips off in the fall.
Oh wait. Not that tournament, either.
Don't know what we're talking about here? Don't worry because surely you aren't the only one. Let us introduce you to the latest brainchild of some genius who wants to water down the college basketball postseason.
The 16-team College Basketball Invitational tips off Tuesday at gym near you. Ok, so not near us. You could create four new postseason hoops tournaments and none of our local teams would get to go. The balls have been locked up in the closet for weeks at Hofstra, Stony Brook, and St. John's, and are dusty right about now anyway. We probably could say the same thing about the brains of the people who dreamed up the CBI and thought it was simply, as they say in those commercials, "Brilliant!"
Adding another postseason tournament, well it's like kissing your third cousin. Even if for some strange reason you actually convinced yourself there's nothing wrong with it, deep down inside you know it's an idiotic move. You're intrigued nevertheless, so you wave off any rational argument from your friends because you couldn't care less what they thought.
That's what we have here with this. No one gives a hoot about this baby. Some company named the Gazelle Group is sponsoring the CBI, and you have to applaud them for brainwashing the powers that be into believing it would work and not hemorrhage money.
Just get a gander at these scintillating first-round matchups: There's the Commonwealth State Invitational with Richmond taking on Virginia; Rider, the pride of beautiful Trenton, N.J., heads to Old Dominion while Brown travels to Ohio. Really, need we go on? These, of course, serve as a prelude to Wednesday's nightcap. Drum roll please. Can't wait for that riveting Utah at UTEP contest that's bursting with storylines. Yuck. Where's Keith Van Horn and Tim Hardaway when you need them?
Don't forget to mark your calendars for the best-of-three championship series. Game one is set for March 31. Meanwhile, anyone with a pulse will be either catching their breath from all the NCAA Tournament regional finals and anticipating the Final Four - that's men's or women's mind you - or wrapped up in the other annual rite of spring: opening week in Major League Baseball.
C'mon. We don't need to see 113 teams playing in the postseason. Next thing you know, they'll be doing the same thing in college football.
Oh wait ...
CBI is ASAP: As Stupid As Possible
March 18, 2008
By Tim Cronin
If four classes are two too many in high school basketball - and the hunch is that Richards would have won a Class AA tournament, just as it triumphed in Class 4A - is there a compelling need for three postseason Division I college basketball tournaments?
Of course not, but the inaugural College Basketball Invitational has arrived on the doorstep like a stray dog caught in a rainstorm.
The CBI is the mutt of the postseason, invented by a television programmer to create programming. Gee, just what we need. A college basketball tournament featuring mediocre teams on a channel - Fox College Sports - most people don't get.
Not that this was easy. The Gazelle Group wasn't gazelle-like in convincing 16 teams to play. The field wasn't announced until about 1 a.m. Monday, after several schools spurned invitations.
Illinois, for instance. While coach Bruce Weber would have accepted a bid after the Fighting Illini's loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament finale, athletic director Ron Guenther whispered on Sunday morning that Illinois had no interest in the CBI.
But Cincinnati said yes. The Bearcats, 13-18 and thus ineligible for either the NCAA or NIT, are the designated Cinderella of the CBI.
Kids, here's how it works. If the Bearcats win out, including a 2-0 sweep in the best-of-3 championship series, they finish 18-18. If the series goes the distance and they win, they finish 18-19.
The shout will go: "We're No. 98! And we're under .500!"
Washington is in. The Huskies are 16-16 and hosting Valparaiso, where nice guy Homer Drew has packed up his 21-13 team and hopped a plane for Seattle. If this is being played on campuses, shouldn't the better team be at home?
Guess not, since Rider is also 21-13 and visiting Old Dominion, a sparkling 17-15.
Ivy League fans will be tickled to know Brown made it. The Brownies are 19-9. Who doesn't want to watch Barack Obama's brother-in-law coaching in the postseason?
Virginia wasn't too proud to say no, despite a 15-15 record. The Cavaliers host Richmond in a game that's at least within driving distance of the visitors. That's barely the case anywhere else.
Will a few Cincinnati fans drive to Peoria, where Bradley hosts the Bearcats on Wednesday night? Maybe. But Houston fans won't fly to Nevada, and Utah fans won't be visiting Texas-El Paso. Arenas will be emptier than Georgia Tech's for the SEC Tournament.
The CBI exists for no logical reason, except the Gazelle Group saw money in it. The NCAA, which allows anyone to host a bowl game, couldn't say no, lest it be accused of monopoly tactics. (The NCAA bought the NIT a few years ago to settle just such a suit.)
There isn't even a real bracket. The four survivors will be reseeded after the quarterfinals. No bracket equals no pool, and no pool equals no interest.
A third postseason tournament was tried once before and found wanting. Remember the Conference Commissioner's Association Tournament? Before the NCAA opened up its tournament to more than conference champions and independents, the NIT was filled with quality teams. Then the CCAT was dreamed up to scoop the second-place conference teams. It mercifully disappeared when the NCAA expanded. To survive, the NIT went to home sites until the semifinals.
Now comes the CBI, the Weed Eater Bowl of postseason hoops, only without the funny sponsor.
The NCAA is on CBS. Perhaps the CBI will be as well someday, arriving DOA on an episode of CSI.
So the Utes are heading to the inaugural College Basketball Invitational with a game against UTEP Wednesday night in El Paso.
Good for them.
After the fiasco the Utah athletic department and the media went through Sunday night, it makes me wonder, though, whether the tournament will make it all the way to its odd three-game finals two weeks from now.
The CBI invitations were sent out piecemeal Sunday evening. Some schools such as Virginia and Washington knew early on they were invited. Utah received word around 8 p.m., at least that's when coach Jim Boylen called me with the news. He expected to learn the Utes' opponent within an hour or so, as did the U. sports information department.
I finally called a number for the Gazelle Group, which is putting on the tournament, about 10:15 p.m. and was told they would have the brackets ready in 15 minutes. After an hour with no word, I called back and was told the brackets were done and were being put on the website as we spoke. However, he couldn't just tell me who Utah was playing.
Another 40 minutes went by with no word until just before midnight, I got a call from U. SID Andy Seeley with the news about the Utes' opponent and I noticed the brackets had finally been e-mailed to me by the Gazelle Group at the same time.
The news came barely in enough time to get in the Salt Lake papers, but probably 13 of the 16 teams didn't have the first-round information in their morning papers. Not a great way to sell tickets, is it?
I know it's the first year of the tournament and it's bound to have growing pains. But it seemed like the tournament organizers could have had a few teams lined up earlier. Perhaps they were having a difficult time finding teams, or at least teams to host the games, which will reportedly cost the host teams $60,000.
Anyway in case you haven't heard, the Utes are in the South Regional as a 4 seed playing UTEP with the winner advancing to play the Tulsa-Miami, Ohio winner. In the West, Valparaiso will play at Washington with Houston playing at Nevada. The Midwest has Cincinnati at Bradley and Brown at Ohio, while the East pits Richmond at Virginia and Rider at Old Dominion.
Let's see what happens over the next couple of weeks. The Utes are fully capable of making a serious run in this tournament, considering how well they've played in several road games this year against teams better than UTEP. In fact, there isn't a team in this tourney, the Utes can't beat. Or like a lot of teams right now, the Utes just may be ready to start their spring break as soon as possible.