Indiana University Made Absolute Right Call in Refusing to Enter CBI

by Kent Sterling

James Blackmon Jr. was not yet in kindergarten the last time Indiana punched its ticket to a Final Four.

James Blackmon Jr. was not yet in kindergarten the last time Indiana punched its ticket to a Final Four.

Prior to being snubbed by the tournament that theoretically invites the 69th-100th best basketball teams in the country to play in anonymity for a couple more weeks, the brain trust at Assembly Hall decided that Indiana would not seek nor accept an invitation to the CBI Tournament.

That was the right call – the only call.

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The alternative would have been to either lose in the CBI or win the CBI, and neither would have been an acceptable result for a mediocre season that teetered on the brink of success and failure throughout.  It finally fell into the failure category late in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament with a torpid effort against Illinois that resulted in a 64-54 loss.

Win the CBI, and the impulse might have been to hang a banner commemorating the players overcoming adversity to beat several equally mediocre teams until there were none left to vanquish.  Lose in the opening round, and the chorus of impatience would have grown louder and larger.

Better to put this dog of a season down for good, than to prolong it to the detriment of the brand and players.

Anyone saying that the players would have benefitted from the additional game work is not seeing things clearly.  If the Hoosiers couldn’t muster the energy to compete with zeal during the Big Ten Tournament, how in the hell could they ever be expected to do it against Hampton, Siena, Tulane, Radford or the other teams who have entered the CBI?

There are reports that Indiana athletic director Fred Glass explained that the Hoosiers would shutter the season by saying “We’re Indiana.”  He might have been better served by being a little less prideful, and asking the question back, “Why would we play?”  That’s quibbling about style though, and I view comments to the media in the same way I evaluate a jump shot.  If the ball goes in the bucket, I don’t care whether the shooter hiked it through his legs.  The Hoosiers not playing is good enough for me.

Would it have played better if he explained how playing in a third tier event could only embarrass Indiana?  I’m usually a big fan of honesty, but that would have unnecessarily pissed off a lot of people in college basketball.

If a TV game show had a wheel barrel filled with manure behind doors #1, #2, and #3, would you choose one or refuse to play?  Glass is refusing to play because none of the results of participation are acceptable.

The question prompted by the supposed “We’re Indiana” comment is, “Who is Indiana?”

Here is who Indiana is:

  • Over the last 21 seasons, the Hoosiers have advanced as far as the Elite Eight just once, and have won exactly one outright Big Ten regular season championship.
  • They have earned a spot in the Big Ten Tournament finals just once in 17 tries, and have missed the NCAA Tourney six times in the last 11.
  • They have been ranked the #1 team in the country during parts of three seasons since 1980-1981.
  • Indiana has lost a minimum of seven games every single season back to 1994.
  • Steve Alford was the best player on Indiana’s last NCAA Champ.  He will turn 50 in November.
  • James Blackmon, Jr. will be a sharp shooting freshman on next seasons team, and he was in Pre-K when Indiana made its last trip to the Elite Eight, Final Four, and National Championship game.

That’s history and math, and arguing with either is futile.

Indiana is what it is.  The CBI is what it is.  The two should never meet, but only because Indiana earns its way into the NCAA Tournament, not because it refuses to accept an opportunity.  But better to refuse the invitation than to accept the results of playing.

5 thoughts on “Indiana University Made Absolute Right Call in Refusing to Enter CBI

  1. Jeff Gregory

    Let me offer another viewpoint – for the sake of discussion:

    The only reason IU should turn down playing in this tournament is if doing so would hurt recruiting. I don’t know if it would or not. I’m pretty sure if they steamrolled all their opponents, it wouldn’t have hurt them and possibly would make a statement that they deserved to be in the NIT. Not having confidence enough to risk that they would bomb in it is another indictment on the program and Crean.

    IU had a sucky season. If they only deserve to play in the CBI, then character dictates that they own that and compete. After storming courts and hanging banners after losses, maybe a dose of humility would be good for them. Character is not made through adversity; it is revealed by the response to adversity. Making the statement, “If we can’t play in the NIT, then we will just take our ball and go home,” wreaks of character deficiency.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      If the result is surely going to be negative – as it would have been regardless of the outcome of the CBI, then it makes more sense to move forward. Playing a meaningless tournament against poor competition in front of scattered and ambivalent fans would have caused (or revealed) more problems than it would solve.

      1. Jeff Gregory

        I guess that depends on priority. My priority is and always will be character and integrity. Imagine a Crean coming up to the mic and saying, “Our team had some ups and downs this season, but it has been a mostly unsatisfying season to say the least. We would have loved the opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament, or even the NIT. However, the powers that be didn’t believe that we deserved that – and I respect those decisions. In that light, the CBI has given us the chance to continue our season and perhaps prove that we can compete at a higher level. This team, despite our shortcomings this year, has what it takes to compete. We will work hard and do our very best to win this tournament. We hope the fans will support us, but even if they don’t, we will be unwavered.”

        That would say a lot to me – someone who has jumped off the Crean band wagon months ago. That being said, I really don’t care that much. I would be one of those fans that would allow them to show me that they were unwavered. That is a whole lot better than pouting and quitting, as it goes to character.

        I mean, you wrote: “The alternative would have been to either lose in the CBI or win the CBI, and neither would have been an acceptable result for a mediocre season . . .” I don’t see quitting as being any more acceptable than the choices you outlined here.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          This may be a bit of a questionable metaphor, but given the choice at the end of a long night in Kilroy’s in Bloomington of going home alone and going home with the bar skank, going home alone is the right call. That doesn’t make the guy a quitter – just prudent.


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