Fourteen postseason tournaments in the last 10 years doesn’t sound too bad.
But when 10 of those are automatic entries into the Big Ten Tournament and none are NCAA Tournament bids, the reality of the Michigan men’s basketball team’s recent postseason fortunes falls in line with the program’s recent level of success.
If the Wolverines (5-12 Big Ten, 9-20 overall) win the Big Ten Tournament, they will receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Otherwise, Michigan’s season will be finished.
“We’re looking to go to get to the Big Ten, win the Big Ten Tournament,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “If we win that Big Ten Tournament, go to the NCAA. If not, we begin spring workouts the next day.”
Contrary to popular belief, the National Invitational Tournament doesn’t require a team to be .500 to qualify. But no team has ever entered the tournament with a losing record, which Michigan is guaranteed to have this year.
The College Basketball Invitational, a new 16-team tournament that will compete with the NIT for teams, doesn’t require teams to have a winning record either. But even if the Wolverines are invited to the inaugural CBI, they definitely won’t be playing in it.
“I don’t know a lot about it, other than I know, that for us right now, I think that we should take a shot at winning that Big Ten Tournament – do the best we can, and whatever happens at that point, the season’s over,” Beilein said.
The Gazelle Group, which is organizing the CBI, is confident the new tournament will compete with the NIT for teams. Gazelle created the Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge in 1999. At the time, a conference commissioner told Gazelle Group President Rick Giles the tournament would never be in Madison Square Garden, never be on ESPN, never get good teams and never tip-off the season.
“Within in a few years, we were 4-for-4 on those things,” Giles said. “So we’re not intimidated.”
Beilein likes the idea of having another tournament to increase the number of teams playing in the postseason. The CBI’s games are all at campus sites, and it has no games on the same days as the NCAA Tournament, which Giles hopes will create more excitement. Giles said the CBI offers better financial models for home teams than the NIT. Road teams get similar deals to traveling NIT teams.
Although Beilein thinks a team should have a winning record to go to the CBI, he said the tournament would be appealing to him next year if his team is 14-15. But not this year, with a young team that played in the Great Alaska Shootout.
“Sometimes the Big Ten Tournament, or whatever, is the type of end to the season that can get you ready for next year,” Beilein said. “We’ve been through a long, long season. Sometimes, it’s time to just move forward.”