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Revisiting the ever-weird CBE Classic

7/9/2010

In preseason college basketball tournaments -- heck, in tournaments of any kind -- there's an implicit agreement that the teams that win move on. That's just, like, how tournaments work, man.

Not the CBE Classic. It feels like a preseason tournament. It looks like a preseason tournament. But in the CBE Classic, something entirely different occurs: Host teams move on no matter what. Funky, right?

That structure is clearly a business decision, one evinced by the disparate quality and popularity between the hosts and the hostees. The 2010 CBE Classic field was announced last night. The hosts are Duke, Kansas State, Gonzaga, and Marquette. Duke will host Princeton and Miami of Ohio; Kansas State will host James Madison and Presbyterian; Marquette will host Bucknell and Wisconsin-Green Bay; and Gonzaga will host IUPUI and San Diego State. Each regional consists of those three teams.

But here's why the setup is funky: If, Princteon beats Miami of Ohio in the first "round," they'll "advance" to take on Duke. And even if Princeton upsets the Dukies at their own party, it doesn't matter: The Tigers go home, and the Dukies move on to play in the semifinals of the event Nov. 22-23 in Kansas City.

It's a bummer for the little guys. If you're Princeton, and you just beat Duke, don't you want the thrill of taking your suddenly explosive upset potential to Kansas City, where you can test your mettle against other top teams? Of course you do. It's just a preseason tournament competition, but still, the games count. That's a great opportunity.

Still, the tournament competition is a business, and business dictates that Kansas State, Duke, Gonzaga and Marquette advance and play each other in Kansas City, regional results be damned. The big schools get to be big schools. The little schools know the score before they sign on. It'd be nice if it actually mattered what happened in the regionals. But I suppose that's what the postseason tournament -- no strikethrough needed -- is for.