On Sunday night, after word (not unexpectedly) came that YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles hadn't been selected to participate in the 2016 NIT, I -- and a few other Marquette fans -- expected Marquette to grab a spot in one of the also-ran postseason tournaments: the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT), or the brand-new Vegas 16. Sure, your school has to pay for the privilege of participating in one of these tournaments, but I figured, at worst, MU would get a couple more weeks to practice together and maybe get a head start on the 2016-'17 season.
That was before the fields for the tournaments were released. Now that the participants have been unveiled, I'm more than willing to admit my mistake and acknowledge that there's really no reason for Marquette to participate in any of these endeavors. Because to say that the CIT, the CBI, and the Vegas 16 are taking on water would seem to be a major understatement.
With a hat tip to Friend of Show and Resident Dog Mascot Conspirator @akschaaf, let's take a look at the fields for the CBI and CIT, last year vs. this year.
First, the CBI:
|2015 CBI||Conference||KenPom||2016 CBI||Conference||KenPom|
|UC Santa Barbara
The 16 teams in the 2015 CBI had an average KenPom rank of 160 (if you round up). This year, the average KenPom rank for the 16 teams is 172 (again, if you're rounding up).
The more problematic issue, of course, is the lack of major conference teams in the field. In years past, the CBI has attracted the likes of Virginia, Utah, and Washington (2008); St. John's, Stanford, and Oregon State (2009); Creighton and Oregon (2011); Butler, Pitt, TCU, and Washington State (2012); Purdue and Texas (2013); and Penn State and Texas A&M (2014). Last year, the only representative of a major conference was Colorado from the Pac 12. This year, the closest to the pin would probably be Duquesne, which went 6-12 in the A10 and finished the year by losing 9 of its last 10 games.
But at least the CBI was able to fill out its entire bracket. The CIT, you might have heard, had to slash its field from 32 teams down to 26. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here's a chart comparing last year's entrants vs. this year's:
|2015 CIT||Conference||KenPom||2016 CIT||Conference||KenPom|
|NJIT||Indep||166||Texas A&M Corpus Christi||Southland||157|
|New Hampshire||America East||183||UC Irvine||Big West||94|
|Eastern Illinois||Ohio Valley||216||Tennessee Martin||Ohio Valley||209|
|James Madison||Colonial||203||New Hampshire||America East||232|
|USC Upstate||Atlantic Sun||201||Norfolk State||MEAC||233|
|Saint Francis||NEC||222||UT Arlington||Sun Belt||102|
|Norfolk State||MEAC||190||Ball State||MAC||155|
|Eastern Kentucky||Ohio Valley||116||Louisiana Monroe||Sun Belt||122|
|Louisiana Lafayette||Sun Belt||120||Mercer||Southern||187|
|Incarnate Word||Southland||228||South Carolina State||MEAC||265|
|Maryland Eastern Shore||MEAC||191||Jackson State||SWAC||227|
|High Point||Big South||126||Sam Houston State||Southland||213|
|Canisius||MAAC||146||Coastal Carolina||Big South||161|
|Texas A&M Corpus Christi||Southland||212||Furman||Southern||163|
|Florida Gulf Coast||Atlantic Sun||200||Tennessee State||Ohio Valley||160|
|Cleveland State||Horizon||79||Savannah State||MEAC||319|
|Western Michigan||MAC||171||Fordham||Atlantic 10||162|
|UNC Wilmington||Colonial||173||NJIT||Atlantic Sun||214|
|Sam Houston State||Southland||81||Central Michigan||MAC||154|
|Northern Arizona||Big Sky||174||North Dakota||Big Sky||194|
|Grand Canyon||WAC||271||Louisiana Lafayette||Sun Belt||114|
|Sacramento State||Big Sky||187|
|Tennessee Martin||Ohio Valley||143|
The 32 teams in the 2015 CIT field had an average KenPom rank of 168. The 26 teams in the 2016 CIT field are, on average, fourteen spots worse in KenPom's rankings (182).
Of course, that's just the math part of the equation. You'll also note that, after sending two teams to the CIT in 2015 (including a pretty good Cleveland State squad), the Horizon League doesn't have a single entrant in the CIT this year. The MAC is down to one team, and the lone A10 team in the field -- Fordham -- went 17-13 this season and lost in December to Boston College.
But perhaps the CIT's woes are best exemplified by the inclusion of Savannah State, a school that posted a 16-15 mark on the year and finished 319th in KenPom's rankings. The Tigers got bounced out of the MEAC tournament by Hampton, which snuck out an 89-55 win. For their efforts, Savannah State gets a home game in the CIT against UT Arlington.
And it's not like schools were bailing on the CIT and CBI to join the Vegas 16, which also had to trim its field from 16 entrants down to 8, and includes the likes of Towson, Louisiana Tech, and Oakland.
So what's the story? Where have all the Power 5* teams and legit mid-majors gone? Our friends at Paint Touches suggested this might've been a "if you go, I'll go"-type situation for the bigger teams, and when no one was willing to take the plunge first, schools like Marquette decided to take their ball home and call it a year. That certainly makes some sense. If you wanted to get more cynical about, the total absence of big-name schools almost looks like a concerted effort to snuff these tournaments out, doesn't it? I mean, out of all those schools in the bigger conferences that didn't qualify for the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, nobody takes the bait for the CIT or CBI?
(UPDATE: our friend Joe McCann pointed out that the CIT's charter makes clear they have a "no Power 5 schools" policy. That explains why there aren't any ACC or SEC or B1G teams in the field, of course, but it doesn't seem to prohibit a Big East school like Marquette from participating.)
Regardless of the reason, with the way things are going, it seems like we might not even get to debate whether MU should take a spot in the CBI or CIT if MU misses the Dance next year.