Until yesterday, we had all assumed that the CBI (College Basketball Invitational) was actually in play as a postseason destination for Iowa. Sure, the CBI had never had a Big Ten team before, but they had invited teams from other power-conferences (including several from our sister conference, the Pac-12), Iowa fit the profile of the teams they like (young and on the rise), and there had been slightly veiled statements about their interest in Iowa, too. It seemed like a good fit for Iowa if the Hawks were unable to pull a March miracle and win the Big Ten Tournament and make the NCAA Tournament (SPOILER ALERT: didn't happen) or improve their lot enough to squeeze into the NIT.
But yesterday we started hearing rumblings to the contrary:
The popular theory was that Big Ten teams weren't allowed to play in the CBI because the CBI has a television deal with HD Net. Harty's counterpart at the Gazoo, Scott Dochterman, dug a little deeper on the matter and contacted Marc Rudner, the Big Ten's senior associate commissioner for television administration, who had this to say:
"There is no conference agreement that restricts access to this or any other postseason basketball tournament," Rudner wrote. "We have not had a team participate in the CBI."
Which wasn't exactly an unequivocal endorsement of Iowa's CBI candidacy, frankly.
But the stake was finally driven into Iowa's CBI possibilities today, by Iowa athletic director Gary Barta in the post-game press conference following Iowa's 92-75 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
Barta says Iowa only wants an NIT bid. sounds like CBI won't even be considered. "have to draw the line somewhere"— Jordan Garretson (@jordangarretson) March 9, 2012
Iowa wants to be one of nation's "best 100 teams," Barta said, meaning selected to NCAA or NIT. After that, they draw the line.— Jordan Garretson (@jordangarretson) March 9, 2012
There are two ways to interpret these statements: one, that they are Barta's genuine beliefs or two, that they are a half-assed cover for the real reason, which is that Jim Delany has put his foot down about B1G participation in the CBI. If it's the latter... fine, whatever. In an ideal world, Barta would admit that this is an edict coming down from on high. Of course, we already know (after Chairgate 2012) that Barta isn't going to cross Jim Delany, so that was never an option.
I think the option behind door number two (a lame cover for Delany's ruling) is the more likely of the two options, but on the off chance that it isn't... Gary Barta is a fool. I think we can all agree that, yes, we want Iowa to be one of the nation's "best 100 teams." But... they may not be there yet. They probably aren't, frankly, if losses to Clemson, Campbell, Nebraska, and Penn State are any indication. But playing in a tournament like the CBI could be a very good way to BECOME one of the "best 100 teams" next year.
Two years ago VCU won the CBI; last year they made it to the Final Four -- of the NCAA Tournament. A year ago, Creighton was the CBI runner-up; this year they were ranked in the top-15 for part of the season and they're a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. (Last year's CBI champion, Oregon, is -- or was -- on the NCAA Tournament bubble, too.) Does CBI success guarantee NCAA success the following year? Of course not. But for young teams -- like VCU in 2010, or Crieghton and Oregon in 2011, or Iowa in 2012 -- that experience can be invaluable. Iowa is going to be built around the talents of Roy Devyn Marble, Aaron White, Josh Oglesby, and Melsahn Basabe next year; getting them some postseason experience --- even if it's "just the CBI" -- could accelerate their development.
Meanwhile, as Todd Brommelkamp pointed out, Barta's never had a problem rewarding mediocrity in the past:
Barta wants to "draw the line" at Top 100 teams (NCAA/NIT) but didn't have a problem with 6-6 football team playing in a bowl game in 06...— Todd Brommelkamp (@VoiceoftheHawks) March 9, 2012
And if the 6-6 football team in 2007 had been given a chance to play in a bowl game, the odds of them turning it down were roughly... zero point zero percent.
Like I said, the far more likely scenario is that this decision came from higher up than Barta, that Jim Delany and the Big Ten have some sort of beef with the CBI and/or their television deals. Iowa, including Barta, Fran, and the players, are just caught in the crossfire. But arguing that Iowa is "too good" for the CBI or that they need to "draw a line" somewhere is naked boosterism at best, sheer delusion at worst. The CBI wasn't "too good" for The Fightin' Phil Knights a year ago. It hasn't been "too good" for BCS-level teams in the past. The idea that a postseason tournament -- any postseason tournament -- is "beneath" a team that's had four consecutive losing seasons prior to this year and has been mired in the depths of the Big Ten is utter lunacy. If Gary Barta wants to say that Iowa can't play in the CBI, fine. But find a better line of bullshit to back it up than the current one, because the idea that we're too good for the CBI is absurd and insulting.
Hell, he could just admit that Iowa's still too scarred by their last run-in with CBI.