This pandemic has not been friendly to a lot of areas in sports, and college basketball is no different. In a season marred with teams shutting down their seasons and pausing for long periods of time, men’s college basketball postseason tournaments have faced a similar plight.
While all eyes are on the NCAA tournament, the NIT and CBI are still going through with their events. However, both tournaments have reduced their size and followed a “bubble”-type model, with the NIT in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the CBI in Daytona Beach.
In a trend similar to what we saw during college football, several teams opted out of the postseason, leaving both the NIT and CBI in a scramble. Yet, many mid-majors benefitted and likely no place is that more true than in the CBI. As a result, those that willingly pay for the $30/month fee of FloSports, will be in for many of the best storylines of March.
First Time Dancers
Three schools will make their first ever postseason appearances at this year’s CBI, Stetson, Longwood, and Bellarmine. Stetson and Longwood are the poster-children of teams that benefitted from teams opting out of the postseason, as the Hatters had an 11-14 record out of the ASun, and the Big South’s Longwood Lancers finished 12-16.
Bellarmine is the last first time dancer. They found their way to the CBI on the heels of a strong rookie season in Division I. The Knights finished 13-7 out of the ASun and were competitive against ACC opponents Duke and Notre Dame.
Like Bellarmine, Longwood is a relatively young Division I program, becoming full-members in 2007. For Stetson however, this CBI appearance is a long time coming as the Hatters have been at the Division I level since the 1971-72 season. Needless to say, all of these schools are hungry to make a scene at their first dance.
Can Army End the Drought?
Arguably, the team with the most to prove is Army, playing in only their second postseason tournament since 1971. They have not won a postseason tournament game since 1970. Here is your obligatory “What the World Was Like in 1970” section.
- NBA Champions: New York Knicks
- NFL MVP: John Brodie
- #1 Song: Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
- Top Box Office Movie: Love Story
- Price of Gas: $0.36
The Black Knights’ bid to make their first ever NCAA tournament fell short in the semifinals against Loyola (MD) after beating American in the first round. Army has a legitimate resume, with wins over LaSalle, Buffalo, and Patriot League top finishers Navy and Colgate being the peaks of a 12-9 finish. In a battle of Knights, Bellarmine stands in the way of Army’s first postseason victory since 1970.
Do not let the records and names fool you, this tournament is full of solid resumes. I mentioned Army above, but arguably, the team with the strongest resume are the Waves of Pepperdine. They beat BYU and Cal, and suffered close losses to NCAA tournament teams, UCLA (in 3OT) and San Diego State.
Bryant is in only their second D-1 postseason appearance ever, and first since the 2013 CBI. The Bulldogs defeated UMass, the five-seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament on their way to a runner-up finish in the NEC title game and a 15-6 finish. They also suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to Syracuse in a game the Bulldogs led 51-44 at halftime.
Bowling Green beat NIT teams Toledo and Buffalo each twice as well as Sun Belt champions, App State. Rounding out some of the quality wins in the field are Stetson, who upset the eventual ASun champs, 23-5 Liberty and Coastal Carolina, who beat a solid 16-6 Georgia State squad.
This year’s CBI will be a sprint, with only a total of seven games over three days, but the pandemic may have created one of the most exciting fields in the tournament’s history. For all the reasons mentioned in this piece and more, this tournament deserves some of your love, even if most of it is behind a $30 paywall.