By BRENDAN McGAIR
Ed Cooley made it perfectly clear following Providenceâs ouster from the Big East Tournament that itâs either NIT or bust for his Friars. While some may interpret Cooleyâs choice of words â âI didnât come to Providence College to play in another basketball tournament.â â as the head coach brushing aside the CBI (College Basketball Invitational), recent history suggests that playing in a postseason event thatâs not affiliated with the Field of 68 (NCAA Tournament) or Field of 32 (NIT) does have some merit.
The same Pittsburgh team that secured a double bye in this yearâs Big East Garden Party participated and won the 2012 CBI. While the Panthers have enjoyed perennial NCAA Tournament status under Jamie Dixonâs watch, the coach was onboard with the idea of exposing the 2011-12 Pittsburgh club â one that won just five Big East games and stood at 17-16 prior to the CBI â to postseason competition.
âWe have a young team and we are looking forward to continue playing,â is what Dixon was quoted on pittsburghpanthers.com upon the school accepting an invitation to participate in the CBI.
Along those same lines, wouldnât Providenceâs players benefit from extending their season regardless of the tournamentâs name? To expose Kris Dunn and Josh Fortune to a new dimension of college hoops can only aid in their development moving forward. Ditto for Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts, two juniors who have never experienced so much as a sniff at basketball action post-Big East Tournament.
If Providence is dead set on taking a major step forward next season, why not get the ball rolling now? As Pittsburgh demonstrated a year ago, the CBI may not be the prettiest of consolation prizes, but itâs not all bad. Itâs something Cooley should keep in mind in case the phone rings Sunday night and a representative from the NIT isnât on the other end.