By Kevin Sweeney
Every year, the debate as to whether teams should participate in postseason tournaments if they fail to reach the NCAA Tournament or NIT seems to heat up more and more. With the emergence of tournaments like the CIT, CBI, and Vegas 16, there are more opportunities than ever for teams to continue their seasons into late March. Many feel that these tournaments aren’t good for college basketball. These tournaments can cost a lot of money for schools, as the CBI and CIT require lots of travel or high fees to host games. However, I am of the belief that the benefits of participating in the postseason outweigh the potential costs.
One advantage of participating in a postseason tournament is that it allows for extra practice time for teams. With practice time limited by the NCAA, any additional time for the team to practice together is a huge positive, as once the season ends, teams are more restricted in how much they can practice and how organized these practices can be. A few extra weeks of basketball can provide valuable experience, especially for a young team.
Another advantage is the experience of playing in a tournament-style atmosphere. For mid-majors, the only road to the NCAA Tournament is winning the conference tournament. Playing in a postseason tournament gives teams more practice at playing in one-and-done, winner-take-all atmospheres. The Vegas 16 is especially intriguing for teams looking for this experience, as unlike the CBI and CIT, the Vegas 16 is played on a neutral court with games every day. This format is very similar to that of most conference tournaments.
These tournaments also reward the fans of a team who would normally be left to watch March Madness without their favorite team. Fans get to witness their team compete for a championship. Looking back 2 years, when nearby Siena reached the CBI Championship, it was a party for students and fans. They played the championship game on campus at 11am, served free breakfast, and the students were able to storm the court after a big win. The players felt like rock stars in a season in which they had far exceeded expectations, yet were nowhere close to reaching the Big Dance. Those players will remember that game for the rest of their lives.
Clearly, even small-time postseason tournaments provide a lot of benefits for teams. It’s a blast for the players, fans, and students and it provides valuable practice time & experience for the players and coaches. So don’t give up just because your team didn’t make the Big Dance this year; enjoy the ride in another postseason tournament.