Unless Northwestern goes on a hot streak, it's very unlikely that the Wildcats will be invited to the NCAA Tournament or the NIT this year. However, that doesn't mean NU is out of postseason contention. The College Basketball Invitational (the CBI) is still an option, and the Wildcats seem to be receptive to that option.
According to NU sports information director Nick Brilowski, the possibility of playing in the CBI has been discussed, and if a bid comes, the decision to play in the tournament will be left up to Chris Collins.
The CBI is a unique tournament in that it selects teams under .500 and puts an emphasis on finishing the season strong. The latter would be good news for an NU team that went 4-2 in its last six regular season games. However, teams also need to pay to host CBI games, which are played on campus sites — $50,000 for each of the first two games and $75,000 per game for the semifinals and finals. The finals are best two-out-of-three.
That may seem like a hefty price tag, but it's chump change for a Big Ten program that will pull in $25 million in television money per year, along with other marketing deals, merchandise and ticket sales. In fact, it's feasible that NU will lose hardly any money off the CBI if the crowds are big enough. Given that the decision is up to Collins, it seems that the athletic department is willing to pay.
There is a lot of upside to playing in the CBI. It means more experience for NU's young players, and there's the possibility to play some solid programs who are in similar situations as NU. Virginia, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Stanford, VCU, Texas, Penn State, Purdue and more have participated in the CBI before, and according to the NYC Buckets CBI Bracketology, Vanderbilt, Cal and TCU are contenders this year. That's some pretty good competition for this team. Of course, the downside is that NU draws Pepperdine or someone of the like and loses in the first round.
Nothing will be announced until Selection Sunday, but the CBI is on the table. It comes down to what Collins wants to do.