When it comes to landing a place in a postseason tournament this year, the relevant numbers for the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team aren’t limited to record or Ratings Percentage Index; they also include distance and the size of the check the school can write.
This year a record 140 teams will play in the postseason — or 40 percent of all Division I members — but whether the Rainbow Warriors are one of them probably won’t be based upon record and rating alone, people in the industry say.
Former UH coach Riley Wallace, who is the chairman of the selection committee of the three-year-old Collegeinsider.com Tournament, said, "(overall) record, conference standing, RPI are all important, but travel and expenses come into it, too."
The CIT requires a $31,500 fee of teams that host games in its tournament to underwrite costs for a visiting 22-member travel party. The four-year-old College Basketball Invitation tournament is said to be in the area of $40,000 for early-round games, escalating with additional rounds. The CBI has a best-two-of-three championship format.
UH, which won last night’s final regular-season home game (17-10, 7-7 conference), is bidding to become the first Rainbow Warriors team since 2003-04 to play in a postseason tournament.
The only guaranteed way of getting there is to win the Western Athletic Conference tournament, March 9-12 in Las Vegas, something UH has done three times in its history but not since 2001-02. The WAC tourney champion will receive the conference’s automatic NCAA bid. No runner-up, unless it is Utah State, will have a shot as an at-large pick in the 68-team field.
» 68 teams
NATIONAL INVITATION TOURNAMENT
» 32 teams
COLLEGE BASKETBALL INVITATIONAL
» 16 teams
» 24 teams
The oldest Division I tournament, the 73-year-old National Invitation Tournament, takes 32 teams and would be a long shot for the ‘Bows even at 20 victories.
Until four years ago the NCAA and the once privately run NIT were the only avenues to the postseason. But the appearance of the CBI opened the door to 16 additional teams in 2008 and a year later the 16-team CIT debuted.
"I wish they had two more tournaments when I was coaching," said Wallace, whose 18-13 team in 2006-07 was not invited.
Still, as CIT owner Joe Dwyer puts it, even with the two additional tournaments, "there are many deserving teams that don’t make it." Last year, for example, 21-10 Iona and 19-11 Maine sat home.
So, the CIT has expanded to 24 this year, and while Dwyer says that means making "eight less enemies" he acknowledges it still won’t please everybody. "It isn’t like college football, where everybody with a winning record is bowl eligible."
The CIT, which Dwyer likens "to a pre-New Year’s Day bowl game" figures to be UH’s best chance this year. For one thing Wallace and Larry Little, another ex-UH coach, are on the selection committee. For another, it does not take teams with losing records as the CBI does.
The CBI has had four teams with sub-.500 marks in three years, including Oregon State, which was invited at 13-17 when it won the tournament two years ago. Unlike bowl games, there is no NCAA requirement that all tournaments select teams with .500 or above records.
Moreover, the CIT seems to have a soft spot for the so-called mid-majors. It relishes "Cinderella" stories and has shown a willingness to be creative geographically.
"It (CIT) looks a lot at matchups and at teams on the rise," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said.
Dwyer said, "We don’t want to lose money, certainly, but we also want to make sure we reward deserving teams."
UH coach Gib Arnold said he has little knowledge of what the tournament landscape holds.
"We’ve been focused on making the WAC tournament," Arnold said. "I think we got something in the mail from one of (the tournaments), but I think every school got one, so it wasn’t a special invite."
Benson said, "I think they (the ‘Bows) will receive consideration. Everybody above .500 will." But he also cautioned, "they probably won’t want to send a team to Hawaii."
UH athletic director Jim Donovan said he has talked to Wallace in the past and "will talk to him again at the appropriate time," adding, "I think $31,500 is definitely within the realm of possibility. But, like anything else, the devil is in the details."
Wallace said he is well aware of UH’s credentials.
"He (Arnold) is doing a good job. There’s no question he has done a good job with them this year, getting them to play hard. They’ve been through a lot with guys leaving and injuries, but he’s kept them together and they keep winning."
Whether that will be enough come selection day remains to be seen.