Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Postseason? How about postmortem?

    With apologies to my LSU friends, and my Tennessee, TCU and UT Arlington friends, our men's basketball teams don't need to be playing tonight.
    If you are excited about being in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) -- or in TCU's case, something called the College Basketball Invitational -- have at it. I'm not joining you.
    If a team can't play in the NCAA Tournament, it shouldn't play anymore at all. Thank you.
    LSU's goal -- or anyone else's -- should not be the NIT. That tournament, once upon a time, was played entirely (with only 12 or 14 or 16 teams) at Madison Square Garden in New York City -- the only reason it was glamorous.
    They could have quit after the 1970 tournament, which was glorious because LSU was in it (the Tigers' first postseason appearance since a Bob Pettit-led NCAA trip in 1954). That gave us four extra games in Pistol Pete Maravich's career -- and he had a spectacular Garden party.
     After that, don't know that I've ever cared much (or any) about the NIT, exception being an occasional Louisiana Tech appearance.
      So I read this Monday: There are 148 men's teams playing in the basketball postseason -- 68 in the NCAA, 32 in the NIT, 32 in the College Invitational Tournament, 16 in the College Basketball Invitational.
     Too many, way too many.
      Like the college football bowl season ... and I'd do away with about 20 of those bowl games right now. Teams with 7-5 and 6-6 records don't need to keep playing.
       The college basketball season starts far too soon, and lasts far too long. There is now a Preseason NIT and dozens of other warmup tournaments in November. I'm still footballing then, OK.
      And now we're playing basketball on several fronts deep into baseball spring training.
      Here's what else makes no sense about the NIT ... LSU is playing at Oregon tonight, UT Arlington is at Washington. Exactly how many Tigers and Mavericks fans are able to make that trip?
       Used to be, the NIT would have regional matchups in the first round. At least the organizers -- which is now an NCAA-run committee -- put Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, Savannah State and Marshall in the same pairings for the first two rounds. That's regional.
     Why not, say, LSU and UT Arlington, Oral Roberts and Ole Miss or Mississippi State together in a "pod?"
        I can even be critical of the NCAA Tournament expanding. Look, it was perfect at 64 teams. Didn't need the expansion to 65 -- the Tuesday "play-in" game -- and now it's 68, with four "play-in" games (two tonight, two Wednesday).
      The NCAA's first two full-schedule days are compelling -- the prospects of the smaller schools from the smaller conferences (Butler, Valpo, Western Kentucky, Northwestern State, etc.) knocking off one of the big names. Great stuff, great television as they roll from game to game. It's wall-to-wall basketball.
       It's almost as good in the women's tournament, but not quite. Honestly, the parity in the men's game doesn't carry over to the women. If they cut the women's NCAA field to 32 instead of 64, a lot of bad matchups would be avoided.
       Sorry if that sounds sexist. I wish there were more competitive women's teams. It's just not so.
       Anyway, if you're a college hoops fan, enjoy the games. I'm only going to watch some of them. Won't even watch LSU at Oregon live on TV tonight (Bea wants to watch the Dallas Mavericks' game, as always, and the postgame show).
       Besides, it's the NIT -- the Not Interesting Tournament.  And that's not even the CIT or the CBI ... or the CIA. Whatever.   

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