By the looks of things right now, Northwestern probably isn't going to make the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. To make the Big Dance, the Wildcats would have to win four games in four days or five games in five days, including Wisconsin and/or Maryland, which has probably 1/1000th of a percent chance of happening. When you count the Tre Demps factor, that probably moves up to a 50 percent chance, but for argument's sake, let's say NU doesn't make the NCAA Tournament.
The NIT also doesn't look very likely. NU currently sits at .500 with a challenging road date at Iowa coming up, along with a likely loss lurking in the Big Ten Tournament. You don't have to finish over .500 to make the NIT, but no sub-.500 team has ever made it. Even if they were to get to .500, things would have to fall just right for NU to make it. Iowa made it three years ago when just a game over .500, but the Hawkeyes barely squeaked in.
That leaves one tournament that, as of this point, is somewhat realistic: the College Basketball Invitational, or the CBI. A fringe tournament that gets NCAA Tournament and NIT leftovers, the CBI is still a legitimate tournament that has gotten some big names in the past.
There's no word on whether NU would accept a CBI bid, but according to the NYC Buckets CBI Bracketology — it exists! — NU has the potential to earn a bid.
So what is this tournament that you've only vaguely heard of? We're here to answer some questions.
Where did the CBI come from and what is it?
The CBI is a 16-team tournament that started in 2008 and takes teams that the NCAA Tournament and NIT don't want. Basically, it's a chance to play postseason basketball.
What's the selection process?
Teams can be under .500 and how teams are playing at the end of the year is a factor in selection.
What's the format?
It's single elimination until the finals, which are best two-out-of-three!!!!! Games are all held on campus sites.
Wait, so what's the catch?
Glad you asked! To host a CBI game, teams have to pay $50,000, and that fee goes up to $75,000 for the right to host semifinals. It ain't cheap, but it can give young teams that are showing improvement a chance to keep playing.
Have any historically good programs ever played in the CBI?
Yes! Among them: Virginia, Washington, Utah, Stanford, VCU, Oregon State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Texas and Texas A&M. Two Big Ten teams have also participated: Purdue in 2013 and Penn State last year.
Do some programs think they're above the CBI and refuse to play?
Yes. Last year, Indiana stuck up its nose at the CBI, with athletic director Fred Glass saying, "We're Indiana. We don't play in the CBI."
LOL Indiana didn't even make the NIT last year, despite having Yogi Ferrell, Noah Vonleh, Will Sheehey and Troy Williams?
Okay, back to the CBI. Are there any other teams I've heard of that could make the CBI?
Yupp! According to NYC Buckets, Cal, Penn State, TCU and Vanderbilt are contenders.
What about this other tournament, the CIT? Is that an option?
No. The CIT only gives bids to mid-majors.
What are the benefits of accepting a CBI bid?
It's more experience for the young players who are learning, the potential to gain more momentum around the program heading into next year and more games — possibly against recognizable teams with similar records — for fans. Not a bad deal.
What is the downside?
Paying for home games obviously stinks, and there's still somewhat of a bad stigma surrounding the tournament. Plus, if you lose at home to Pepperdine or Eastern Kentucky or something, it could end up being counterproductive.
So what do you think, Kevin? Should NU play in the CBI?
Yes! The money is really nothing in the long run (don't believe Big Ten programs when they bring in $25 million a year from TV revenue and claim poverty) and the experience could be great for the young players. Say NU gets to the finals with some wins over Cal and Vanderbilt, then it's well worth it.
And if you want to hate on the CBI's existence, don't. Because if you do, you're just like the people who hate on there being too many bowl games. And if you want to deprive us of watching Western Kentucky beat Central Michigan in an all-time classic like the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, then I suggest you take the advice of a prominent Medill alum and get the hell out of America.