In most years the 2012-13 Purdue basketball season would be over right now. The Boilers finished 15-17 and even though the NIT can accept a team with a losing record, they never have. A bid also seems unlikely with the number of teams nationally with a winning record plus teams like Stony Brook, Mercer, Charleston Southern, Northeastern, Niagara, Norfolk State, Robert Morris, Louisiana Tech, and possibly Middle Tennessee State locking up automatic NIT bids because they come from one-bid NCAA leagues where they lost their conference tournament, but won the regular season title.
That is at least eight bids in a 32 team field already locked up by smaller conference schools. More can get into that discussion as well as Championship Week winds down here. The CBI Tournament, however, is a possible postseason destination for Purdue.
First, some background. The CBI stands for College Basketball Invitational. It was started in 2008 as a third-tier postseason tournament mostly for really good mid- and low-major teams that failed to make the NIT, which often is filled with middling power conference teams and Northwestern. It is a 16-team Tournament with a unique championship. The championship round is a best-of-three series where each team plays at home at least once.
There is a fourth-tier tournament below even the CBI call the CIT, short for CollegeInsider.com Tournament. It was started in 2009 and has a bloated 32 teams. It is almost exclusively made up of mid-and low-major teams and has actually expanded from 16 to 32 teams. Like the CBI, all games are played at campus sites. No major conference team has ever played in it, and already schools like Bradley, Rider, Illinois-Chicago, and Wisconsin-Green Bay have accepted invitations.
It's highly unlikely Purdue would slide down to the CIT, but there is a major-conference history with the CBI. Pittsburgh won the 2012 event, Oregon won in 2011, VCU in 2010, Oregon State in 2009, and Tulsa in 2008. Washington, Cincinnati, and Washington State are other major-conference schools that have also played in the event. It does take teams with a losing record, as Washington State was 15-16 last year before going all the way to the final.
To play at home you have to pay a fee to the tournament organizers, the Gazelle Group. Last year that fee was $35,000 for a first round game, $50,000 for a second round game, and $75,000 for a semifinal. Those charges Purdue would have to consider, but I don't think it would be a huge deal-breaker. If you sell only 5,000 tickets (a reasonable amount) at just $20 apiece you make $100,000 per game, which covers your hosting fee and gives you some money to cover the operating costs. Let's face it, Purdue also has all the Rotel and Barbasol money from the Big Ten Network sitting around to use as well.
Is it worth it to play anywhere from one to six more games? Well, it can be a springboard to something more. 2012 winner Pitt will go the NCAAs this year as will semifinalist Butler. Oregon has gone CBI-NIT-NCAA after winning it in 2011, while fellow finalist Creighton is now in the NCAAs most likely. VCU went from winning the CBI in 2010 to the Final Four in 2011. That's three straight years of the tournament being used as a springboard to something bigger for developing teams. If Purdue accepts a bid it will likely do so hoping that principle holds.
The other side of the coin is that it is the CBI. It's an embarrassing third-tier tournament that deserves no form of celebration even if you win it. There should be no CBI Tournament banner hung or T-shirts made if Purdue wins the five games needed to win it all. It is strictly an opportunity to give D.J. Byrd and Dru Anthrop a few more games and to develop Purdue's young freshmen further. It should never be the goal of a program to level out there, and Even Purdue goes forward and gets its record above .500 as a result (and even to a possible 20 wins) there comes with it a certain stigma of "yeah, but..." As in, "Yeah, you won 20 games, but you played in the CBI." It is absolutely embarrassing that we're even talking about playing in this thing.
No Big Ten team has ever played in the event, either. It will hardly be a cakewalk as some respectable teams will likely make this season's event. Purdue could expect to see an Evansville team that finished the season strong, possibly Indiana State too, who has a win over ACC champ Miami. Xavier, Florida State, UTEP, Detroit, Kent State, Western Michigan, and Washington are examples of teams that could find their way to the CBI with us. There are teams that can and will challenge Purdue.
That's probably why Purdue will take a chance and accept a bid if offered. Ronnie Johnson needs time on the floor to direct the offense better. A.J. Hammons needs more work on his give-a-shit. Rapheal Davis needs to take his recent solid play and become more consistent with continued play. Terone Johnson, Sandi Marcius, and Travis Carroll need to step forward and be the leaders sorely needed. Any CBI bid is about building for 2013-14. Purdue was greatly inconsistent all season long and even with the Big Ten regressing back just a little (depending on who leaves for the NBA) the Boilers can't count on automatically coming back to the pack. Hard work needs to be done. Yes, Byrd and Anthrop will play, but Painter needs to use it as an extended audition for who wants to play next year and who wants to stay on the bench. He said so last night.
So, we wait until Sunday. We'll likely know then.