February 17, 2013
Assessing Tulane's chances to play beyond the C-USA tournament
For the Tulane men's basketball team, it is time to talk tournament.
The Green Wave has earned that right by winning three of its last four games and coming close to upsetting Conference USA title contender Southern Miss in the loss. After struggling offensively for most of the year, Tulane put up 91 points against Marshall, hung 88 on Houston and scored 78 on SMU, suggesting transformative progress more significant than a random stretch of good play.
Point guard Ricky Tarrant is aggressive without getting out of control. Post player Josh Davis plays harder than anyone else on the court, even contributing 15 points and seven rebounds on an off day against SMU. Long-time starter Jordan Callahan has found a niche as instant offense off the bench. Former franchise player Kendall Timmons has adjusted his game after coming back from Achilles tendon surgery, maintaining his focus despite failing to make a shot in the last two games.
So what does the Wave (17-9 overall, 5-6 Conference USA) have to do to continue playing after the league tournament for the first time since 2000? Clinching a winning record, which it did for the first time in five years by beating SMU on Saturday, is not quite enough even though there are four postseason tournaments (NCAA, NIT, CBI, CI.com) with a combined total of 148 spots.
More likely, winning three of the its last five games to finish .500 in the league would clinch a berth somewhere.
Here's a tournament-by-tournament analysis:
CBI or CollegeInsider.com
The new kids on the block garner almost zero attention nationally, but one of them is Tulane's likely destination if it finishes strong. The CBI (College Basketball Invitational), which started in 2008, has 16 spots and, for the most part, looks for the best teams that did not make the NCAA or NIT. The CollegeInsider.com, created in 2009 and featuring 32 teams, is geared almost exclusively toward mid-major and low-major leagues. Conference USA fits that profile these days.
No eligible C-USA team that finished .500 or better in league play and with a winning overall record has failed to receive a postseason invitation in the four years there have been four tournaments. Some have declined bids to the CBI or CollegeInsider.com -Tulsa last year and Southern Miss twice -but they were invited.
Using history as a guide, Tulane can virtually lock up a bid with three more wins in the regular season. It is hard to imagine the minor tournaments passing on a C-USA team with 20 victories, and Tulane absolutely, positively would accept an invitation.
Six C-USA teams have played in the five years of the CBI, with Tulsa winning the inaugural tournament in 2008 and UTEP finishing as runner-up in 2009. UCF in 2011 is the only participant in the last three years.
Six C-USA teams have played in the four years of the CollegeInsider.com tournament-Marshall twice, Southern Miss, SMU, East Carolina and Rice last year. Only one, SMU in 2011, advanced as far as the semifinals.
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