Sports Column: Is Anyone Filling Out Their CBI Bracket? – The Vicksburg Post
Sports Column: Is Anyone Filling Out Their CBI Bracket?
Published Saturday, March 18, 2023 at 4:00 am
Most college basketball fans are focused on the NCAA tournament this weekend, and rightly so.
Completing a bracket is an annual ritual. Winning an office pool is something we’ve bragged about for years, much like parents brag about their children’s accomplishments. Surprise excites us, another championship from Duke or Kentucky bores us.
Commercials that run in an endless loop for four days make us talk about pop culture moments. Jack Link’s Peeing Sasquatch is sure to outperform AT&T’s Lily in this weekend’s commercial speaker power rankings.
In Mississippi, there were even plenty of reasons to catch a glimpse of the second-rate NIT (National Invitational Tournament), as Southern Miss and Alcorn State made cameo appearances that year.
However, what really stands out to me is one tournament I probably won’t be watching for a minute – the College Basketball Invitational, or CBI. Just the fact that this thing exists, and has been for 15 years, is fascinating.
“CBI” sounds like either a shadowy government organization or the next bizarre banking term set to blow up our economy. In reality, it’s the post-season equivalent of a dollar store rather than one of the fancy ones.
If you weren’t good enough to make the 68-man NCAA tournament…or the 32-man NIT…you might still have a chance to earn the right to say, “We’re number one ( -oh-one)! ” by winning the CBI.
Of course, the prerequisite is that you pay the entry fee of 27,500 US dollars for participation.
To give you an idea of what kind of school would agree to this deal, 10 of the 16 teams in the CBI have a direction or city in their name. Two more are named after a food item (Rice) and a hat (Stetson). These seem like nice fun facts that you probably won’t find in the CBI press releases.
Reaching the NCAA tournament is the fundamental goal for any team. Playing in the NIT isn’t that great, but it has a certain prestige and can serve a purpose. Playing in the CBI feels like being invited to an underground pit fighting competition in a seedy Hong Kong bar cellar.
All games will be played in Daytona Beach, Florida. Even if you want to see them, it’s very difficult. The first two rounds will only stream on FloHoops.com, which looks like a good site that airs a bunch of games but isn’t exactly on most people’s radar. The semifinals and finals will be lifted on ESPN2.
The CBI transitioned from on-campus locations to a single location following the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past two years, none of the 22 games at Daytona Beach have had a recorded attendance of more than 800.
Last year’s championship game, in which UNC defeated Wilmington Middle Tennessee 96-90, was witnessed by 624 people in Daytona Beach during spring break who had nothing better to do.
If you win a postseason tournament and no one sees you lift the trophy, did you really win it?
The CBI seems about as pointless as it gets, and yet it’s also one of the things that makes sports so great precisely because it’s pointless. It’s weird and it’s silly, which makes it kind of funny. And after 15 years, it seems like it has an odd niche on the college basketball landscape, which is a bit intriguing.
Still, I’m not sure anyone is willing to start a CBI office pool. Seems they’d rather watch a Sasquatch pee than devote a few moments of their time to the CBI.
Ernest Bowker is Sports Editor for the Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at [email protected]
About Ernest Bowker
Ernest Bowker is Sports Editor for the Vicksburg Post. He has been a member of the Vicksburg Post sports team since 1998, making him one of the longest-serving reporters in the newspaper’s 140-year history. A native of New Jersey, he graduated from LSU. During his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.
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