The slow, painful death of the mid-major post-season tournaments

Photo courtesy of Cleveland State Athletics

Horizon League teams that do well this season may end up sitting at home for no good reason

In an apparent response to swirling reports that Fox Sports was planning to launch a new post-season tournament in Las Vegas featuring teams from so-called Power 6 conference, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt blinked and changed the rules for invitations to the NIT. Instead of regular season conference champions getting a bid, a move that favored mid-major conferences such as the Horizon League, those will now be reserved for select Power 6 teams.

For a mid-major to get invited to the NIT now, the team would have to have a high enough NET ranking to make a case. In the Horizon League, that’s not going to be good enough.

The remaining post-season tournament, the CBI, gave plenty of lip service to Horizon League and mid-major fans as a whole by reinforcing its commitment to being the prime spot for those teams as a post-season tourney venue. It truly seemed like a golden opportunity for the CBI to expand its footprint and use that to gain some leverage to get more eyeballs on its product.

But instead, the CBI will remain the same: A 16-team format set exclusively in Daytona Beach, with the first two rounds being broadcast on the bane of every sports fan’s existence, FloHoops. Only the semifinals and finals will be shown on ESPN2.

Given that multiple Horizon League teams are poised to have good seasons, it appears that as of right now, it’s going to be the NCAA Tournament or bust, except for maybe one or two teams that get inviting to the CBI, where the already-fierce competition for those spots will now be even more intense.

This is unacceptable.

As more and more teams enter into Division I, you’d have expected some movement in the expansion of the NIT and CBI, as well as the potential for the new third-tier post-season tournaments to spring up, mostly due to the resistance to expand the NCAA Tournament at all. However, the opposite has happened.

It’s all complete bullshit.

You mean to tell me that even with teams across the Horizon League, along with the other mid-major conferences, willing to shell out tens of thousands to host games, there’s no interest whatsoever? There’s no brand or company that would have no problem scratching which what would probably be the equivalent of change found under their sofa cushions to be a title sponsor?

I don’t buy it.

As maligned as the College Insiders Tournament, which mutated into The Basketball Classic, was with its erratic scheduling, herky-jerky bracket (which I’m still not convinced even existed), their reliance the existing media deals with individual schools was, for all intents and purposes, the only thing they did right. If the right set of people served as organizers, this type of tournament not only could survive, but thrive.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Vegas Sixteen (which became the Vegas Ocho), the third-tier tournament that only lasted one year but gave us one more look at Kay Felder in an Oakland uniform and a legendary social media account that still jumps into conversations on occasion to this day.

Much as we would love to see the return of this tournament (along with a more active Vegas Sixteen Twitter account), and as much as we applaud their enthusiasm for our plea for them to return, nobody has really heard from them for a month (and that was only because they responded to our own Matt Dudek tagging them in a tweet). But you never know if someone is working behind the scenes on this matter. Even though we’re coming at this from the perspective of Horizon League fans, I can’t believe that there isn’t enough of an audience to sustain another tournament that caters to mid-majors. The opportunity is out there. And it’s long past due that someone take the proverbial ball and run with it.

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