Second CBI On Verge of First Tournament

By David Scott - March 10, 2008

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the College Basketball Invitational - America's newest NCAA Division I post-season basketball tournament - will be the already-established Collegiate Basketball Invitational.

In fact, when a curious Googler emails the original CBI's founder to inquire as to whether the second year of his post-season tournament will take place, he just about sends a limo to shuttle the inquisitor to northeastern Ohio.

"It would be great if you are able to attend our event in Wadsworth, Ohio and/or (we) would appreciate any coverage that you could provide," said CBI the First's founder, John McCarthy. "As you may guess, we have received quite a bit of attention."

The attention has been on a steady rise since the Gazelle Group's mid-November announcement that it would stage a 16-team post-season tournament for the first time beginning this March.

"Certainly, I noticed when they came out with the event and the name," said McCarthy, whose nationally-televised April all-star showcase features non-Division I talent from the D-II, D-III and NAIA ranks. "The name is slightly different, as theirs is 'College' and ours is 'Collegiate.' We will carry on."

Which is what the new other CBI - the brainchild of Gazelle founder and Princeton grad (Class of 1983) Rick Giles - hopes to do with his NIT alternative.

"We want the NIT to succeed as well," said Giles, an ex-Tiger footballer who fell in love with hoops during his undergrad days in the same town where he now has office space. "March is the time with the highest interest in college basketball. We're going to give them a little bit more and we think we can do a better job."

Competitive smack talk aside, Giles sees dollar signs in the same place the NCAA (which owns the NIT) sees them. He sees home teams wanting to take part in the 50/50 gate share and pitches woo with road teams by covering their expenses and offering "additional practice and additional game situations for young teams." He sees a niche audience with a burning desire for off-nights-of-the-NCAA programming - even if it involves two teams that lost half their games and probably had ZERO quality wins.

"We're not trying to kid anybody," Giles promises.

Nor will they. NIT ratings and attendance are never what you would call "blockbuster" and a vast majority of college basketball fans only care about the NCAAs. There are very few NIT brackets circulating through inter-office emails.

Still, the host team advantage is clearly something Giles is emphasizing as a prime selling point for his tournament. Greg Shaheen of the NCAA - which runs the NIT using a very similar selection process to the NCAA pick procedures - coyly pokes holes in that supposed "benefit" of the CBI.

"The NIT provides a competitive financial package that uniquely requires no minimum guarantee of its hosts," said Shaheen, the Association's senior vice president for basketball and business strategies. "The (NIT) pays for all game expenses and shares the proceeds for each game in the event among its participants among other key benefits. (It) distributes any remaining funds to the NCAA membership through the distribution formula."

"Distribution" is exactly what this is all about. In reality, the remaining slice of the orange leather pie Giles is going after may not be substantial by itself, but it's a big enough cut to complement Gazelle's other hoops properties. Properties that include not only pre-season tournaments but also a block of coaches who Giles "markets" through the Gazelle Group. In essence, the IMG-trained Giles, is creating another chance for his clients to throw "post-season appearance" on their resumes and their team literature.

"You're season is so dependent on making the NCAA Tournament and everyone sort of bemoans that," said Giles, who has secured TV for most of the games (regional FOX broadcasts), but is still lining up corporate sponsors, as the sponsors' logos-lacking website indicates. "The NCAA (Tournament) is the crown jewel. But we showed in our mock bracket from last year that we could have some quality teams and those teams were interested in being a part of the CBI."

Giles is being optimistic if he thinks he can get a sweet 16 of teams with such high-major affiliations and in a year that most experts believe provides a weak field at the Bottom 50 of the Top 100, the CBI will be facing an immediate obstacle. That in mind, Giles gives his newborn some wiggle room as to which schools it selects.

"There's no RPI, we hate the RPI," said Giles. "We want to look at whether you are playing well in your last 10 or 12 games. We don't worry about RPI, 20-wins or if you're over .500. The NIT doesn't have (a must-be-.500) either. I don't want to get locked in and yes, the further you get below .500 the less likely you are to have good wins."

The three disparate tournaments do have at least one thing in common: all are looking for the "best" teams available from the pool they are dealing with. Giles says the CBI will have access to the same schools as the NIT and at the same time, but it's more likely the CBI will get sloppy seconds from the NIT picked-at carcass of a sub-sub-field.

Shaheen puts it more tenderly.

"It is an open marketplace in this regard," said Shaheen. "The market (NCAA membership will determine what it believes to be in its best interests."

Giles is believes his CBI will serve those interests.

"Any time you rattle the status quo the skeptics are going to jump up," said Giles. "We've sort of been overwhelmed by the interest and attention this has received for something that hasn't happened yet. This may have received more attention than any of our pre-season tournaments and we've had some pretty good games in those events."

Which either says a lot for the new CBI or a little for the old Gazelle games (which this season included tournaments involving Michigan State, Memphis, UCLA, Texas and Tennessee - Final Four contenders, all). There is tradition - however meager it may have become - that goes with the NIT and even if the financial upshot is slightly less based on the NIT's "shares" system, there is still something to be said for National Invitational, not to mention the major Bristol-Connecticut based network that will broadcast all 31 of its tournament's games. (Giles and his staff would also be wise to ditch the company line that his tournament will allow students to miss less class time. Not having the additional 16 or 32 team tournaments would also address that concern. We're mature enough to handle the fact that this is a money play and you don't need to try and cover that up with the BCS "missing class" BS.)

"I can remember it like it was yesterday when a certain conference commissioner, who shall remain nameless, was telling me in 1996 that I'd never pull off starting a college basketball event to tip off the season," said Giles with a bit of smarm on his lips, "I was doing all I could to restrain myself from exploding at (the commissioner)."

Now, more than a decade later, Giles is hearing snickers again. The fact that he's the second CBI may not be helping things - especially when search engines spit out McCarthy's CBI at the top of the returns list.

"We're trying to get that fixed so we come up first on the (search engine)," Giles chuckled.

If he does what he's setting out to do, the search engine will fix itself once the term "CBI Bubble" enters the lexicon. If he doesn't, we're going to take Mr. McCarthy up on his offer to visit the original CBI in Wadsworth, Ohio. No limo required.

NOTE: Both the NIT and CBI fields are expected to be announced on Sunday night after the NCAA selections are revealed.

Posted by David Scott at 09:57 PM on March 10, 2008
Comments (1)


While the NIT is never the first choice in March Madness, here's an alternative office pool format for this tournament:

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