Having fallen out of contention for both the NCAA tournament and the NIT by dropping 10 of its last 15 games this season, Indiana had a decision to make Sunday evening.
Would one of the nation's most tradition-rich college basketball programs deign to participate in the third-tier College Basketball Invitational tournament?
Indiana athletic director Fred Glass announced his decision Sunday night, informing the Indianapolis Star that the Hoosiers planned to pass on the chance to headline the CBI. Glass left no doubt why the school was declining the invitation, telling The Star, "We're Indiana. We don't play in the CBI."
It's easy to understand why Indiana would be wary of tarnishing its image in a tournament like the CBI. Kentucky was the butt of jokes for days last March when it fell to Robert Morris in the opening round of the NIT. It would only be worse for the Hoosiers if they got upset by a small-conference opponent in an even less prestigious tournament.
At the same time, were Indiana to forget about protecting its image and worry about improving its basketball team, the Hoosiers might not be so quick to turn up their noses at the CBI.
An Indiana team loaded with freshmen and sophomores could use the extra practices and games after a season that began with NCAA tournament expectations resulted in a 7-11 Big Ten finish and an opening round exit in the Big Ten tournament. Furthermore, while there may not be other blue bloods in the 16-team CBI field, there are a couple of teams that could certainly challenge Indiana including Penn State, UTEP, Fresno State and Texas A&M.
It was only four years ago that VCU won the CBI and carried that momentum into the 2011 season, making the NCAA tournament and going all the way to the Final Four. It was only three years ago that Oregon won the CBI and followed that up with an NIT bid and two straight NCAA tournament appearances.
Perhaps the CBI could have benefited the Hoosiers too, but we'll never know. They're Indiana. They don't play in the CBI.
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