Army appears headed for the College Basketball Invitational tournament
By KEN MCMILLAN | The Times Herald-Record | Published: March 16, 2021
WEST POINT (Tribune News Service) —It appears the Army men's basketball team will get to play in the national postseason after all.
Coach Jimmy Allen said Sunday that there are discussions to place Army in the College Basketball Invitational tournament, confirming other media reports. An announcement could come as early as Monday. It would be Army's 10th postseason event and first since 2016.
The CBI will be hosted at Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports said the early invitees will include Army, Coastal Carolina, Longwood, Stetson and Bellarmine. Bryant has accepted. Buffalo was a possibility but received a National Invitation Tournament bid ins. The twitter feed of CBI said the eight-team bracket (reduced from the usual 16) will be released Tuesday, with games starting on March 22.
Army (12-9) had its championship hopes thwarted on Wednesday when ninth-seeded Loyola (Md.) stormed to a big, early lead and held on for a 67-63 victory over the fourth-seeded Black Knights in the Patriot League semifinals.
In the pecking order of postseason events, the NCAA draws the cream of the crop, pulling from conference playoff champions and other top-ranked and highly regarded at-large teams to fill its 68-team field, which was announced Sunday evening. Next up is the NCAA-owned National Invitation Tournament, which signs up schools not scooped up by the NCAA tourney — often known as the burst bubble squads — and mid-major conference runner-ups. The 16-team NIT field (down from the usual 32) was also expected to be finalized Sunday night.
The next tier of teams head for the College Basketball Invitational and the College Insider.com Tournament. The CIT was held from 2009 to 2019, with the 2020 and 2021 events canceled due to the COVID pandemic. The CBI has held its event annually since 2008 (the 2020 tourney was also canceled due to COVID), with a reported $50,000 entry fee. Normally, the CBI holds its events on campus sites, but is conducting the 2021 event in Daytona Beach.
Army is one of only four schools, from the original Division I designation in 1939, to have never participated in the NCAA tournament, joining The Citadel, Saint Francis (N.Y.) and William & Mary.
The 1967-68 Army team went 20-5 and received an NCAA tourney invitation but then-coach Bobby Knight refused, choosing instead to participate in the NIT — at that time, the NIT was on par with an NCAA tourney that allowed far fewer teams than now; plus, Knight liked the fact the event was held at New York's Madison Square Garden, less than an hour away from West Point, and cadets could attend. However, Army lost 62-58 to Notre Dame on the eve of Saint Patrick's Day.
Army appeared in the NIT in 1961 (lost first round), 1964 (finished third), 1965 (third), 1966 (fourth), 1968 (lost first round), 1969 (fourth), 1970 (third) and 1978 (lost first round). George Hunter was the coach in 1961, Tates Locke in 1964-65, Knight in the visits from 1966-70 and Mike Krzyzewski in 1978.
The 1978 appearance was the last postseason event for Army until 2016, when the Zach Spiker-coached team was upset in the Patriot League semifinals, and accepted a bid to the CIT. The Black Knights lost the CIT first-round game at New Jersey Institute of Technology, 79-65, in what was Spiker's final game as head coach before he headed to Drexel University.
Army has the unfortunate distinction of never reaching the playoff finals of the Patriot League since joining the league in 1990-91. The Patriot champion does get an automatic bid to the NCAAs.
The CBI is run by the Princeton, New Jersey, based Gazelle Group, which also conducts in-season events such as the Empire Classic, Legends Classic, Gotham Classic and Holiday Face-Off.
The CBI champions list includes Tulsa (2008); Oregon State (2009); Virginia Commonwealth (2010); Oregon (2011); Pittsburgh (2012); Santa Clara (2013); Siena (2014); Loyola, Chicago (2015); Nevada (2016); Wyoming (2017); North Texas (2018); and, South Florida (2019).