Would Vanderbilt Ever Belong in the CBI?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The NIT is one thing. The CBI? Totally different. Would Commodore fans support any postseason basketball - even if Vanderbilt has to pay for it?

Indiana knows what's up. The Hoosiers, despite a handful of solid wins, were an NIT bubble team this spring. When the National Invitational Tournament didn't come calling, there was only one destination left for IU - the College Basketball Invitational.

And the CBI got a succinct, "thanks, but no thanks" from the university.

"We're Indiana. We don't play in the CBI."

IU Athletic Director Fred Glass

Tom Crean's team decided to stay home rather than compete in the 16-team consolation-to-a-consolation bracket, leaving Hoosiers to cheer for Indiana State, the region's only postseason participant, in the NIT. Rather than play as the marquee name for a fledgling tournament, IU decided to stay home and allow teams like Penn State and Stony Brook to share the spotlight.

The CBI isn't the basketball slum that Glass seems to deride it as. The still-growing invitational has hosted some solid teams in the past. After its inception in 2007, the tournament has boasted champions like Oregon, Pittsburgh, and VCU. Playing in the bracket isn't just for low-major hopefuls and mid-major teams that are down on their luck.

Still, Indiana's rejection is about more than a program's self image. The CBI offers a minuscule reward at the end of what is typically a disappointing season for major conference programs. The tournament also removes the financial incentives of hosting more basketball games thanks to the pay-to-play model that funds the program and the lackluster matchups that are inherent in a third-tier tournament. The CBI charged $60,000 to host a postseason game under their model back in 2009. Any money the university would see after that fee would have to be split 50-50 with the marketing group behind the bracket.

The Hoosiers could have inflated their 2013-2014 record with some late wins, but they ultimately would have come at a time where fans barely recognize the NIT, let alone the distant cousin of the little brother tournament. The CBI is a recipe for apathy, even in a basketball-crazy state like Indiana.

So should the tournament ever be a landing spot for Vanderbilt? Is the opportunity for more basketball enough to entice fans to watch more of the midlevel matchups that make up the tail end of the non-conference schedule?

The Commodores declined an invitation to play in the CBI back in 2009, opting to stay at home that year, albeit in a much less dickish way than Indiana did this spring. Since then, Vandy has either been good enough to make it to the NCAA Tournament or bad enough to fall off of everyone's postseason schedule. Would Kevin Stallings accept a CBI bid in 2015 to get some extra burn for what is shaping up to be a young team?

History says no, but circumstances can always change. So that leads to an interesting question; if Vanderbilt were offered a CBI bid in the future, would you want the team to accept it? Is any basketball better than none? Or are the Commodores better served by turning the spotlight over to baseball season and rebuilding quietly inside Memorial Gym?

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