Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CBI-St. Louis

There were four CBI games played last night. Of those four games, two went double overtime, while a third was a two-point game with 180 combined points. The fourth was a 93-86 game.

It leaves you with a CBI semifinal schedule of Princeton at St. Louis and Boston University at Virginia Commonwealth. And, for those who are chuckling about the CBI, consider this quote from VCU coach Shaka Smart after his team's win over College of Charleston in the 93-86 game:

“I said this after our first CBI game and it definitely applies to this one as well, this had to be a fun game to watch," Smart said.

Yes, the CBI and the CIT don't have the history and prestige of an event like the NIT, let alone the NCAA tournament. And yes, Cornell's ascension to the Sweet 16 completely dwarfs Princeton's two CBI wins, with its game at St. Louis set for tomorrow at 9 Eastern.

Still, there are 347 Division I men's basketball teams, and only 32 are still playing. To be one of those 32 is a positive.

Besides, there is much to be gained from the CBI.

For starters, Princeton's team, despite its four seniors, is a young one, so any postseason experience is valuable. While Cornell has been the dominant team in the league the last three years, the Big Red will start four seniors against Kentucky Thursday night and be led by a coach who is being mentioned for every job open anywhere in Division I. Who knows what Cornell will look like next year.

Harvard, who battled Princeton for second place all season, had a young team as well, but its best player by far was Jeremy Lin, a senior.

In other words, the Ivy League is up for grabs next year, and the more Princeton's group plays together and plays well, the better it will be for 2011.

Look at the first two CBI games. Princeton had a chance to play a home game against an Atlantic 10 opponent and then a great double-overtime game at a unique building in Indianapolis. Now, with that, it's on to St. Louis for the semifinal.

Is it the NCAA tournament? No.

Is it, as Smart said, fun? Absolutely.

The big picture goal is to win the league and get to the NCAA tournament. To do so requires being able to win in difficult situations, and that's where playing together through the years pays off.

The bigger picture goal is to win in the NCAA tournament. For every team like Cornell that achieves in the tournament, there's always a previous season that it points to as having been invaluable in the process.

The Princeton women gained NCAA tournament experience this year against St. John's, a team that came within a point of the Sweet 16. Think Princeton knows it could play with St. Johns? Think the Tigers wouldn't love another shot? Think they're not going to use that as motivation to get back and improve on the result?

The men don't have that chance as for as the NCAA goes, but should Princeton take the next step next year, you will surely hear them talk about this year's CBI as having been a huge help.

And, keep one thing in mind: This team is two years removed from a 6-23 record and second consecutive last-place Ivy finish.

Today, they are 22-8 and on a bus to St. Louis to play in the CBI semifinals. Should they win, they would play for a post-season tournament championship for the second time in school history, after the 1975 NIT.

CBI? Don't laugh. Princeton is, as the VCU coach said, playing fun games to watch.

And getting a lot out of the experience.


Anonymous said...

You know, it may be too sensitive to address if President Tilghman has voted against Ivy participation in football playoffs, but...Could you address the, how to put it, anomaly of so many Ivy athletes participating in the post season when the League resolutely denies the football players the same opportunity?

Princeton men's basketball is spending days away from campus, Cornell has had 3 teams in the NCAAs, two still playing, several Ivies sent athletes to the NCAAs in wrestling, swimming -- this is really unfair to football.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is being charitable- it is ludicrous that the Ivy football champ cannot participate in the playoffs while basketball and so many other sports have the opportunity to move ahead to playoffs