Mens’ Basketball Postseason Tournaments: Beyond the NCAA

Mens’ Basketball Postseason Tournaments: Beyond the NCAA

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College basketball is big business for men’s and women’s teams alike. While the women may participate in the NCAA or NIT during the postseason, the men have two additional tournaments to engage in: the College Basketball Invitational and the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.

The NCAA is, of course, the destination of choice for the more than 350 colleges participating in the Division I level. About half the teams are automatic qualifiers by virtue of winning their conference championship or tournament. For about 36 teams, at-large bids may await them.

Postseason Tournaments: Pick One

The National Invitation Tournament (NIT) was started in 1938, one year before the NCAA Division I tournament was launched. Eventually, the NCAA squeezed out the NIT with the senior tournament relegated to an “also ran” status. However, teams that failed to qualify for the NCAA had a chance to be accepted the NIT. And nearly each year the NIT champion would point to their championship as a reason why they should not have been snubbed by the NCAA.

Two newer tournaments have also joined the post season mix. In 2008, the College Basketball Invitational was launched, followed by the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament the succeeding year. Like the NIT, CollegeInsider.com invites 32 teams while the CBI picks 16 teams for its tournament. Thus, 148 Mens basketball teams now get to play in the post season — March Madness indeed!

Kentucky Wildcats: On a Quest

Kentucky, of course, is the favorite to win the NCAA tournament and is on a quest to finish at 40-0 for the year. The Wildcats may become the first team in nearly four decades to go through the entire season, championship games included, undefeated. That’s a story line that overshadows all other news related to Mens basketball this year.

Today’s NIT is now controlled by the NCAA, the very organization that had nearly destroyed it. When the NCAA field was a more manageable 32 teams, schools that missed the main tournament sometimes snubbed the NIT, deciding not to be associated with the “Not Invited Tournament” or “loser’s tournament” as some have called it. However, in more recent years teams that missed the NCAA have welcomed NIT bids, looking at the tournament as a place to develop its younger players. The NIT’s new found respectability has also meant that a number of schools that might have qualified were locked out, opening the door for an additional two tournaments to get started.

The bottom tier tournaments, although not prized destinations for some programs, are desirable for others. The CBI waits for the NCAA to assign the 100 teams that will play in the NCAA and NIT tournaments before choosing its team. But that tournament has some competition from CollegeInsiders.com Postseason Tournament, which begins to select its participating teams before Selection Sunday.

NJIT Highlanders Are Ecstatic

Those CI teams typically are small-time programs with no hope of making any tournament, schools that must pay $36,000 to participate. One team already selected, NJIT, is thrilled to participate as this New Jersey school will finally get the recognition some think that it deserves.

Indeed, with a record of 18-11, NJIT has shown much spunk in the face of adversity as it is the lone remaining Division I program without conference affiliation. The Newark school has to scramble each year to find opponents and this year it has defeated a few noteworthy schools, such as Michigan, Yale and Saint Francis (Pennsylvania). The Highlanders are already assured of a home game against a not-yet-determined program on Wednesday and hopes to sell out its 1,500-seat gym. That gym will soon be replaced by an athletic center with 3,500 seats, what should help the Highlanders finally land in a conference.

The Winner’s Circle

Regardless of what happens over the next several weeks, March Madness will be played out as 280 programs (men and women combined) seek to extend their seasons. Six champions will be named, although the big news will follow the winners of the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments.

See Also — Fab Four: Florida, Kentucky, UConn & Wisconsin

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