Let’s face it: College basketball hands out postseason tournament bids like youth soccer leagues hand out participation trophies. (Almost) everyone’s a winner!
Aside from the NCAA Tournament, there is the NIT, CIT and CBI. Why, you might reasonably wonder? The latter two tournaments are critical in determining the 100th best team in the country.
The NIT is a consolation prize for those not getting in the 68-team NCAA field; the CIT and CBI are consolations for not getting consolation prizes. To adapt a "Seinfeld" line, college basketball’s postseason tournaments are like the Three Tenors — everyone knows Pavarotti and Domingo, but who’s that other guy?
Can you even name an NIT winner of the last decade?
How about the CIT or CBI?
Bonus points if you know what CIT stands for (I’m not sure either, so I’ll look it up and give you the answer below).
In all, 144 teams are invited to tournaments (actually more if you count those that declined the offer). There is this caveat: It's still not as bad as the glut of bowl games, but working on it.
Among instate schools, no school made the NCAA Tournament; Utah and BYU are in the NIT; Weber State is in the CIT; and Utah Valley is in the CBI. (Ouch — how would you like to be Southern Utah and Utah State right now?).
(Speaking of which, how does the NIT put BYU and Utah on opposite sides of the bracket? That means they won’t meet unless it’s in the championship game in New York City. Does this make sense? No one cares about the NIT; it’s all about TV and making money (which are the same thing), so why wouldn’t the selection committee arrange a potential early matchup, close to home, where they will generate interest and ticket sales? They could do what Utah athletic director Chris Hill and coach Larry Krystkowiak refused to do this year and put the Utes and Cougars on the court together. They could do what the Las Vegas Bowl did a year ago by matching up the Utes and Cougars on the football field when Utah refused to schedule BYU. BYU-Utah would be an entertaining game for a tournament that is sorely lacking in that area.)
Anyway, where was I? The postseason Here’s a quick look at the alternative tournaments:
NIT (National Invitation Tournament) — Founded 1938, it is one year older than the NCAA Tournament. It consists of 32 teams — down from 40 a few years ago. It gets the second tier of teams that don’t make the NCAA Tournament. The NIT was once a prestigious tournament, but it lost its luster when the NCAA began expanding its field. Let’s put it this way: It’s not a good sign when fans taunt opposing teams late in the regular season by shouting “NIT, NIT!” Its acronym has been abused for a variety of alternative interpretations, none of them good — Nobody Interested Tournament, No Important Team, etc.
CIT (answer to earlier question: CollegeInsider.com Tournament) — The 32-team tournament, founded in 2009, does have high standards in its selection process: No teams with a losing record.
CBI (College Basketball Invitational) — Founded in 2007, it consists of 16 teams, five of them with losing records — Hampton, University of Illinois-Chicago, Loyola, Utah Valley and Coastal Carolina. The CBI is one of the new kids on the block, but the tournament still thinks enough of itself that it requires an entry fee to host one of its games, ranging from $35,000 to $75,000, depending on which round.
What’s the harm of all these tournaments? As previously noted, this isn’t about basketball and postseason glory; it’s about TV and money. It’s filling airtime on TV and selling ad revenue. It’s squeezing the last dollar possible out of “student-athletes.” As writer Andy Hutchins wrote, it “functions as a way for college athletics to funnel money to people outside athletic departments.”
It’s watering down the postseason and exploiting the athletes. It’s overkill.