The College Basketball Invitational tournament should almost be called the Tournament of Broken Dreams. No one dreams of playing in it. It is a rung below the even the NIT, where even a small conference team that wins the regular season title but loses the conference tournament can find a measure of refuge against the burst bubbles of major conference teams. In five years the CBI has promoted itself on a springboard of future success and its unique best-of-three final.
So, the 16 teams here are vagabonds, of sorts. It's an amalgam of mid-majors who were too good for the CIT (an exclusive mid- and low-major tournament) but not good enough for the NIT. Maybe they just fell short in their automatic bid quest in the conference tournament. Maybe they are a young team like Purdue that is looking for a measure of growth and redemption. Everyone has a story, so let's see all 16 stories:
Purdue Boilermakers (15-17)
Why are they here? - The Boilers were maddeningly inconsistent all season long, looking like the light had come on for stretches only to look pedestrian the next time out. Purdue, playing four freshmen large minutes, seeks growth in the hopes that 2014 is a return to the upper half of the Big Ten and a return to the NCAA Tournament.
Season high - Definitely winning by 13 at Wisconsin, where so many teams struggled. The Badgers have a hex on one of the best teams in the entire country, but on a Sunday in early March Purdue played a virtually flawless second half to walk away with a 69-56 win. Seven times the Badgers defeated a top 15 team this year, but Purdue inexplicably sprung one of the biggest upsets of the year.
Season low - There were several, but losing 47-44 at an Eastern Michigan team that finished 16-18 was pretty bad. No Big Ten team should ever lose to the MAC in basketball. Ever.
Texas Longhorns (16-17)
Why are they here? - They're here for mostly the same reasons as Purdue. The Longhorns have seven freshmen on the roster and five sophomores, making them one of the youngest teams in all of America. With no juniors and two seniors (that played a total of 8 games) they need a lot more experience. Unfortunately, they also have Rick Barnes.
Season high - It was probably December 19 when the Longhorns thumped No. 23 North Carolina 85-67. It was their lone win over a ranked team.
Season low - This one is easy. On November 19 Texas opened the Maui Invitational with an 86-73 loss to Division II Chaminade. Yikes. That alone should have disqualified them from post-season play because even losing at a MAC team is more excusable than losing to a D-II school.
Bryant Bulldogs (19-11)
Why are they here? - They weren't quite good enough to win the Northeast Conference, where they finished second in the regular season to Robert Morris before crashing out in the quarterfinals. LIU-Brooklyn got the auto-NCAA-bid and Robert Morris went to the NIT as the regular season champ.
Season high - Since the NEC gets few opportunities to beat major conference schools lets go with the 56-54 win at Boston College on November 25. They also started the season at Indiana, but lost 97-54.
Season low - Either a 69-59 loss at Navy (8-23) or 87-76 loss at Sacred Heart (9-20). Neither one is great.
Vermont Catamounts (21-11)
Why are they here? - Because they couldn't beat Albany for a third time this year despite playing at home in the conference tournament final and starting the game with a 10-0 run. It would have been a third trip in four years to the NCAAs. Stony Brook go the NIT invite as the America east regular season champ, so runner-up Vermont is here.
Season high - Let's go with an 85-78 win over NCAA bound Harvard, who also was in the NCAAs last year. Vermont beat them in Boston on November 27.
Season low - It had to be the Albany loss. Vermont had beaten them 70-45 at Vermont on January 5 and started hot, only to lose 53-49 with the auto-bid on the line on their home floor.
Houston Cougars (19-12)
Why are they here? - Because someone felt Phi Slamma Jamma needed a consolation prize after last night's Survive and Advance 30 for 30? I don't know. They won 19 games, but only had an RPI of 197.
Season high - When your best win is over UTEP, a team rated 95 in the RPI, can you really have a season high?
Season low - Losing to cross-town rival and No. 324 rated Rice 79-69 on January 30. It was Rice's only conference win of the season and the Owls went 5-26 overall.
College of Charleston Cougars (24-10)
Why are they here? - They were the runner-up to Davidson in every aspect. Davidson won the regular season Southern Conference title over them by 3 games, then beat them in the conference tournament final for the auto-bid. Of the 10 losses, three were to Davidson.
Season high - Winning 63-59 at No. 24 Baylor on November 24th. They also have a win at Vermont and beat Boston College at home.
Season low - Charleston lost 65-49 at home to Division II Anderson (SC) on December 13. At least Texas had the decency to lose to a Division II school on its home turf thousands of miles away. Charleston did it at home!
George Mason Patriots (18-14)
Why are they here? - They couldn't make any headway in the CAA after VCU kindly left to clear them a path. Big things were expected of them, but they stumbled to 18-14 and their former coach won the ACC at Miami of all places.
Season high - George Masons started strong with a 63-59 home win over Virginia and only lost by a point to No. 3 seed New Mexico on November 18. They have played a ton of Purdue opponents in Hofstra, William & Mary, UNC-Wilmington, and Bucknell.
Season low - Losing to 10-20 North Carolina-Wilmington 82-74 on January 12. They had a strong enough non-conference schedule to compete for an at large bid, but George Mason lost too many close games.
North Dakota State Bison (24-9)
Why are they here? - NDSU brings the best overall record to this tournament and a solid RPI of 77. They fell to South Dakota State 73-67 in the Summit league Tournament final, however, after splitting the regular season games. The 73-67 affair was a tight one, but the loss prevented NDSU from reaching its second NCAA Tournament.
Season high - NDSU Won the Progressive Legends Classic Consolation bracket back in November. After opening that tournament with an 87-61 loss at Indiana they beat Youngstown State, Duquesne, and James Madison over three days in Pittsburgh.
Season low - Probably the conference tournament loss to SDSU. This is a pretty good basketball team that should have been in the NIT.
Western Michigan Broncos (20-12)
Why are they here? - Because the MAC sucks and can't even produce a decent NIT team outside of Ohio. With 20 wins WMU still only has an RPI of 131.
Season high - The Broncos went on the road and beat a Big East team 58-53 on November 18! Okay, so it was 12-19 South Florida, but still! OMG TOTALLY AWESOME BIG EAST!!!
Season low - Losing to Duquesne 71-66 on December 19. It made Duquesne 7-5 at the time, but they finished 8-22 with only a win over Temple by a point the rest of the way.
Western Illinois Leathernecks (22-8)
Why are they here? - Because this is already the greatest season in Western Illinois history since moving to Division I in 1982. A 13-3 record in the Summit League allowed them to share the regular season title with South Dakota State, but since they were swept by SDSU in two games the Jackrabbits won what would have been the NIT auto-bid if they hadn't won the conference tourney. Last year's CBI was WIU's first ever postseason appearance if any kind in Division I.
Season high - Winning the Summit League regular season title. If not for a 59-53 loss at home to SDSU they would have won the title outright and would be in the NIT as a result.
Season low - Losing to 9-18 SIU-Edwardsville on November 14. Unfortunately, they lost leading player Ceola Clark III to injury in the conference tournament (he may not play vs. Purdue). Leading scorer Terell Parks is also injured and missed the last four games.
Santa Clara Broncos (21-11)
Why are they here? - They play in the same conference as the No. 1 team in the country. The downside of Gonzaga and St. Mary's dominating the WCC is everyone else looks bad.
Season high - Santa Clara beat a very good St. Louis team at St. Louis 74-62 on November 14. That's a really, really good victory.
Season low - Giving Loyola Marymount (11-23) its only regular season conference win 84-80 on January 10, then turning around and losing tot hem against in the conference tournament 60-58.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane (17-15)
Why are they here? - Because we need to make this a 16-team field. Seriously. A near .500 team in Conference USA is here because someone had to take a bid, kind of like how Joe Girardi made the 2000 NL All-Star team because they needed a catcher and no one else was home.
Season high - Ummm... Like Houston, their best win is over UTEP, but they beat them twice!
Season low - They lost 92-76 to No. 238 ranked Cal State Northridge. Yikes.
Wright State Raiders (21-12)
Why are they here? - They lost the Horizon League Tournament final to Valparaiso 62-54 despite leading a good portion of the second half. Otherwise, they are in the NCAAs.
Season high - Upsetting no. 2 seed Detroit to reach the Horizon final. Had Julius Mays not left early for Kentucky this team is probably in the NCAA Tournament.
Season low - Losing to an 11-20 Central Michigan team 59-55 on November 21.
Richmond Spiders (18-14)
Why are they here? - They were rather mediocre in a pretty good Atlantic-10, which is possibly the best "mid-major" league in America now that it has Butler and VCU.
Season high - They have a couple of wins over NCAA teams, but the 86-74 overtime win over bitter rival VCU on January 24 eventually cost the Rams a piece of the A-10 regular season title.
Season low - Even with 14 losses there isn't a truly bad one. Their RPI was a solid 91 and the worst loss by RPI was 67-64 to George Mason. They were a measly 1-7 against the top 50 RPI teams though, thus putting them in this tourney.
Lehigh Mountain Hawks (21-9)
Why are they here? - Because they couldn't regain the form of last season's epic 15 over 2 upset of Duke to win the Patriot Leauge again. They finished second to Bucknell and lost to fellow runner-up Lafayette in the tournament semis.
Season high - Beating Bucknell at Bucknell 65-62 on January 23. At the time it had Lehigh firmly in control of the Patriot race and it looked like a return to the NCAAs was very likely. Had they gotten close non-con. losses to Pittsburgh and Bryant to be wins they may have been a fringe at large team.
Season low - Losing three in a row to Colgate (who went 11-21), Bucknell, and Lafayette to fall out of first place. Of their nine losses, three were to Lafayette, who didn't even make the CIT.
Wyoming Cowboys (19-13)
Why are they here? - Because they were a really good team that was even briefly in the top 25 after a 13-0 start to the season. Then Mountain West play started and they went 5-13 the rest of the way.
Season high - They started 13-0 with a win over Colorado and over NIT participant Denver. In the January 7th poll they were ranked No. 25 in the Coaches Poll.
Season low - Mountain West Conference play. Boise State ended their winning streak 63-61 on January 9th. They got to 15-2 and 2-2 in the league after beating San Diego State 58-45 on January 19, but lost 11 of the next 15 to close the year. Two of their four conference wins were over last place Nevada.