On one hand, no Purdue fan should think the CBI is an acceptable destination for this or any other Purdue basketball team. There's too much talent on this team for them to be in the third-tier tournament.
On the other hand, Purdue is exactly where they should be, based on their play this year. In late December, it looked like Purdue might have figured some things out as they began to play with some cohesiveness...two months later, after getting shellacked by good and not-so-good teams alike, they seemed to be in disarray...THEN, they played a really solid stretch of basketball in which they looked like the team I thought they'd be in February/March. Finally, they completely soiled the bed versus Nebraska in an uninspired game loss v. Nebraska.
The wake of that last game felt like the first Northwestern game, the second Iowa game or either IU game...The team didn't look like they cared to be playing that much. And when I see a team play that way, I feel regret for wasting my time watching them. Sadly, I'm an addict, and will watch Purdue play, even when they're bad...over and over and over and...
I still have a sour taste in my mouth from the Nebraska game. A team that looks like a MAC team controlled Purdue for most of the game. Their coach had them hustling for 50/50 balls, fighting and playing their best ball...Purdue, on the other hand was playing well below their ability, and worse, seemed to not want to be there. If there are any Purdue players or coaches reading this, I'm sure they can understand why Purdue fans don't really like watching a team that doesn't seem to like itself much and seems to play hard every now and again.
I'm not condoning giving up on Purdue basketball...but I do understand why many have wanted to take a break until next year. This was a tough season for all parts involved. And now, the fruits of Purdue's labor for the '12-'13 season is college basketball's equivalent of the participation trophy: the College Basketball Invitational tournament invite.
Like all addicts, I've been trying to find a way to get my next fix this morning. I want to go up and watch the football team practice this week and might also see if I can get some tix to the Western Illinois game while I'm at it on Wednesday. I've legitimized my poor behavior by saying I'm already going to be on campus, the real tourney isn't even playing that night and my son's basketball league ended on Saturday...I'm sick, I know I won't feel good about myself on Thursday morning; Beating a Summit League foe in March will be tough scenario to get excited about...and God forbid how my head will pound on Thursday morning if they should lose the game.
But let's look to the very recent past for positivity and perspective about the CBI to help us through this, shall we?
The 2012 CBI had a couple basketball powers in it- Butler; a two-time tourney finalist in the last five seasons and Pitt who is almost always ranked in the top-15-20 (but typically underwhelms in March).
This year, those two teams are both in the dance- Butler had a solid season, same goes for Pitt...but both showed a ton more fight than last season.
First off, Butler was pretty young in '12...in the wake of losing three of the best players in program history in the previous two seasons (Heyward, then Mack and Howard), Butler lacked identity and continuity and experience.
Next up, Pitt. They began the season as a top-10 team. But, an 8-loss streak and a 5-loss streak toward the end of the regular season made them a team that no one outside of the city of the 'Burgh cared too much about. They had three Seniors on the roster, one didn't play much...the other two carried much of the load...but experienced depth was a problem.
One big difference from our Boilers in '13 and these two in '12 was they both finished over .500.
Pitt won the three game championship series v. Oregon State...Butler lost to Pitt in the semis. Did the CBI give these two teams momentum heading into this season or were they just cases of big fish in a small pond; I think an argument could be made for both sides of that discussion.
Oregon State, like Purdue's opponent in the CBI this season, kinda seems like they're stuck in neutral. Neither program has progressed since last season.
So what will Purdue gain out of this largely unimportant tournament? Will they be like Pitt and Butler and take a step forward after next season after playing hard in the tourney, or will they be like TCU who wasn't that good last year, and got worse this season?
Time will tell. What we do know is Purdue is that if Purdue deserved any post-season play at all, it is a tournament that is little more than a bunch of scrimmages that no one cares about outside of the two fan bases involved...and even within those fan bases, it's tough to find people that really, truly want to watch the contests.
The good news is, it's really tough to find these games on TV. The former HDNet, now AXS.tv network (I didn't know it existed) will be carrying these...but I think your best bet might be a nostalgic listen to the Cliz, if you're not heading to God's country for
Texas also made the CBI...Texas, whose Coach Rick Barnes made an awful deal with the devil, has had a horrible fall from grace since ye olde days in which they'd be highly ranked before disappointing in March...He got his squad to a game under .500 this season. If both two teams win two games, they'll play in the semis of the CBI.
*addendum- I just read that there is no football practice that's open to the public on Wednesday...