NIT, CBI, and CIT: Why? How About Why Not?

Eric ClingersmithContributor IMarch 18, 2009

With the addition of the College Basketball Invitational and the Tournament, some pundits are crooning about an overcrowded postseason atmosphere in Division I hoops. If we start with the 65 teams in the NCAA Tournament, add the 32 NIT qualifiers, then add 16 teams apiece for the CBI and CIT; we are now up to 129 teams in the NCAA basketball postseason.

There are a total of 347 schools in D-I, all of which can qualify for these 129 spots in the postseason. With some quick math, it can be said that 37.1 percent of teams will qualify for the postseason this year. This number is opposed to the 113 teams (32 percent) last year and the 97 teams (27.9 percent) in 2007.

The numbers of postseason qualifiers (129, 113, and 97) sound a lot worse than they are when taken out of context. The closest way to put this into context is to compare NCAA basketball's postseason to that of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.

There are 34 bowl games in the FBS, which naturally means that 68 teams qualify for the postseason. The FBS has only 120 members to fill those 68 spots. An astounding 56.6 percent of teams qualify for a postseason bowl game. For those with fears of math, thats more than half of the teams that qualify for the postseason in NCAA football. All of a sudden, college basketball doesn't look so bad.

The other gripe about the three secondary tournaments is that they're just there as consolation for those teams who have their NCAA bubbles burst and in turn the teams don't even care about them.

This isn't true: Ask the players who get to play another game (especially the seniors), ask the student sections, ask the coaches who use it for recruitment, and ask the TV networks who don't have to use bull riding as a filler.

I went to Niagara's NIT game in 2004 against Troy State and everyone was loving it. Niagara's home NIT game on St. Patrick's Day this year sold out in five hours. I think people care about this thing. Maybe it's a letdown for the schools from major conferences or the former NCAA Tournament "bubble teams," but given the choice between playing and not playing, these teams are picking play every time.

To those who say that there are too many teams moving on to the postseason, I ask: Under what logic?

By percentage far fewer make it in basketball than football. If everyone takes these postseason tournaments as what they are, it is easy to be seen that they harm nobody.

Yes, it's clear that the NIT is the second most prestigious tournament by a longshot. The CBI and CIT have some jostling to do to see who comes in as the third most prestigious postseason tournament, with the CBI currently holding the lead due to seniority.

These extra tournaments hurt nobody, while giving the players and fans a chance to experience at least one more game. March isn't just for 31 conference winners and 34 at-large teams, nor should it be.

I say that we should let them play. If you don't like it, don't watch it or read about it. The talking heads don't need to stand on their soapboxes and whine about the dilution of the NCAA postseason. Let these student-athletes savor one more game.