Answer this question for me: Why is the perception or vibe of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) generally negative among most fans, yet in college football most teams are celebrated when they get bowl bids to such games as the — and I’m just throwing out a few names here — the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Belk Bowl and Dollar General Bowl?
Not including the College Football Playoff semifinals and championship game, there were 38 bowl games for the 2016 seasons. That’s 76 teams out of close to 130 in the Football Bowl Subdivision. A good number of .500 teams, and even below .500 teams, have gone to bowl games in recent years to fill those slots.
Throw in the CFP teams, and about 61 percent of FBS teams play in postseason bowls in 2016, and over the last five years or so.
There are 351 Division I college basketball teams. This year, 132 made one of four postseason tournaments, which equates to 37.6 percent.
Tournaments like the CBI and CIT don’t hold the same prominence or clout as the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, and probably never will. But most college bowl games don’t hold the interest level compared to the CFP games or the bigger bowls such as the Rose Bowl.
But when you break it down, what is the difference between going to a lesser-than bowl in football and playing in a postseason basketball tournament like the CBI?
Is it that football — in general — is bigger and more popular than basketball at the college level? That’s probably a factor.
The Wyoming men’s basketball team opens play Wednesday in the CBI when it hosts Eastern Washington. It is the fifth time UW has played in this tournament in its 10-year history — the most of any team in this tournament’ brief history. A big factor in why the 18-14 Cowboys received an innovational to the CBI this year was that two teams that finished ahead of them in the Mountain West standings — New Mexico and San Diego State — declined any postseason invites that didn’t involve the NCAA Tournament or NIT.
Those two programs believe they are above tournaments like the CBI. That’s fine. Let them believe what they want. If UW was consistently going to the NCAA or NIT tournaments, perhaps it would have that same mentality.
But UW isn’t there. It its 120-plus year history of hoops, the Cowboys average a postseason appearance of any kind every four to five years. Will it ever be a consistent participant in the NCAA or NIT? Time will tell, but it is safe to say that it is a long way from that right now.
First-year UW coach Allen Edwards was part of a national championship team as a player at Kentucky. He’s also been an assistant coach at programs that have played in the NCAA Tournament. He was asked this week about his take on the “negative vibes” that surround such tournaments as the CBI.
“Probably because the CBI is still new, having been around for 10 years,” he said. “There’s so much excitement with the NCAA Tournament now, and even the NIT. At one point in time, the NIT was bigger than the NCAA (Tournament). I honestly can’t answer that in a way that makes sense.
“With football and the bowl system, there’s always excitement to get to a bowl. I don’t understand why there shouldn’t be any excitement going to play in any postseason basketball tournament. … At the end of day, we just have to do the best job we can and put ourselves in position to play for a championship, and that would be a little more exciting. When you watch teams win a championship, everyone is happy.”
I am not writing this to urge UW fans to jump aboard to the CBI bandwagon, although there is plenty of room. Fans can think and perceive this chance for UW any way they want. To me, postseason chances like this, and just about any bowl opportunity the Cowboys get, is about one thing — the players and coaches within the program. If they’re on board and want to do it, then great. If not, then decline it and let someone else have the chance.
That was the topic of a column I wrote last week after both the UW men’s and women’s basketball teams were eliminated in their first games of the Mountain West Tournament last week. Here’s the link to that column, with free access for those who don’t have a subscription to wyosports.net:
For more on UW’s game with Eastern Washington Wednesday, including some financial information about the event, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net. Go to all three platforms for game coverage as well.