By Marshall Haim
Assistant Sports Editor
The Canisius men’s basketball team made its fourth appearance in the last five years in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) during spring break. The Griffs faced the Samford Bulldogs in Birmingham, Ala. losing 79-74, marking the second time in three years Canisius did not win their first round game of the CIT.
My ultimate question is: ‘Is it good to participate in a postseason tournament other than the NCAA Tournament?’
My answer: ‘Yes and no.’
It is good to participate in a postseason tournament other than the NCAA Tournament because you can give underclassmen room for growth in their upcoming years of eligibility. Granted, the Griffs did exceeded expectations under first-year head coach Reggie Witherspoon, finishing the year off with an 18-16 record and sweeping the season series with the eventual conference tournament runner-up Siena. The Griffs also defeated Iona, the MAAC champion, at home in the final week of the regular season. The Gaels lost to the No. 3 seed Oregon Ducks last weekend in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Participating in a postseason tournament, NCAA Tournament or not, gives your team’s seniors an opportunity to wear their jersey for one last time. Phil Valenti ended his career on a high note, almost recording a triple-double (16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists).
However, playing in a postseason tournament that isn’t the NCAA Tournament is bad. People may question why, but it’s simple.
It is not the Big Dance.
Just walking to my courtside seat at the NCAA Tournament last weekend at the KeyBank Center here in Buffalo gave me the chills. The highest stage of basketball was just mere feet away.
Mount St. Mary’s and Bucknell, both double-digit seeds who played in Buffalo, didn’t have “upset” potential on paper, but proved to many that they deserved to be there.
If you don’t earn your conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament or receive an at-large bid don’t play in a postseason tournament. It’s cut and dry.
Not many care or pay attention to the other tournaments. The NIT, generally a nice parting gift for those who don’t reach the NCAA Tournament, has lost its glamor over the past few years.
To put it in perspective, ESPN had over 18 million brackets completed online for this year’s NCAA Tournament. People care and will glue themselves to their televisions from noon until 1:00 a.m.
Canisius has the potential to be in that spotlight, but it hasn’t happened since the 1995-96 season. Just let this sink in: I wasn’t even born yet. So too were seven players on this past year’s team.
Don’t settle with a postseason tournament that isn’t the NCAA Tournament. Make the Big Dance, show what Canisius basketball is made of, and shock the entire world.