Is CBI a good idea for Cougs?

THERE ARE TWO schools of thought regarding Washington State and its participation in the College Basketball Invitational, which the Cougs kick off at San Francisco at 7 p.m. Tuesday (HD Net). The pro side says, why not? It gives the players a few more practices, decent competition and maybe the feel-good experience pays off down the road.

There's no downside as long as it doesn't cost the school a boatload of money.

The con side says, are you kidding me? The Cougars have a losing record (15-16). Losing teams do not deserve to be rewarded. Isn't that mainly the point of a postseason tournament, that it is a reward? Another game or three or four isn't going to change the mindset and experience level of this team.

Count me among the latter group. First, let me be clear: Washington State, or any team in the CBI, isn't going to elevate my blood pressure one point. It's the CBI, after all, not the IRS. So if the Cougars want to play, I guess it's OK.

COMMENTARY

But as for any meaning? There is none. This team is what it is: an inconsistent group that more often disappoints than satisfies. Playing a few more games isn't going to change that. There are rare exceptions when a team with a losing record, such as the Cougars, plays in a postseason tournament. Winning the conference tournament and earning an automatic berth, for example.

Maybe if the team was very young, played a tough early schedule, and looked like it was making strides late in the season, perhaps you say what the heck, let's see they can do in a tournament. That is not the case with Washington State. The Cougars appear to be no better on March 11 than they were on Dec. 11, Jan. 11 or Feb. 11.

What about Oregon State in 2009? Didn't the Beavers take the stink off a losing record by winning the CBI that year? Well, yes, and while I didn't agree with OSU agreeing to take its 13-17 record into the CBI, that team was different than these Cougars. Oregon State's program hadn't been relevant for several years, and there was a little bit of a feel-good from that season in first-year coach Craig Robinson.

What about Oregon last year? The Ducks had a losing record , yet won the CBI. Again, a different set of circumstances. Oregon had a first-year coach in Dana Altman, and the Ducks – thought to be the Pac-10's worst team heading into the 2010-11 campaign– were making strides late in the season. That was confirmed when Oregon reached the Pac-10 tournament semifinals.

That can't be said about these Cougars.

Nonetheless, Washington State is in, so what can we expect from its first-round game against San Francisco? The Dons will be a handful. Of the teams WSU beat this season, only California was better, in my opinion.

San Francisco (20-13, 8-8) was fifth out of nine teams in the West Coast Conference, which most would agree was better than the Pac-12 this season. The Dons' marquee win was a 66-65 decision over NCAA-bound Gonzaga on Feb. 18. They also beat another tourney-bound team in Montana.

While Washington State stumbled near the finish of the season, San Francisco played well. The Dons went 3-2 in their final five games, beating Gonzaga and losing twice by narrow margins the WCC champion Saint Mary's.

Washington State and San Francisco played four common opponents during the season: Portland, Pepperdine, Santa Clara and Gonzaga. The Cougars were 3-1 against those four, while USF was 7-2.

San Francisco has a veteran team, as its top four scorers are juniors and seniors. The Dons have beef in forwards Angelo Caloairo (14.2 ppg, 6.1 reb.) and Perris Blackwell (12.7 ppg, 6.1 reb.) and backcourt punch in guards Rashad Green (11.8 ppg) and Michael Williams (10.8 ppg). Defensively, the Dons heavily rely on half-court trapping, which gave Gonzaga fits in its loss to USF.

San Francisco is coached by Rex Walters, who played 10 years in the NBA before turning to a college coaching career. Walters is 62-65 in four years at USF.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL INVITATIONAL:

LINK TO BRACKET BREAKDOWN

FIRST ROUND
Milwaukee at Texas Christian, Tuesday TBA
Western Illinois at Oregon State, Wednesday 7 p.m.
Washington State at San Francisco, Tuesday 7 p.m.
North Dakota State at Wyoming, Wednesday TBA
Delaware at Butler, Wednesday 5 p.m.
Quinnipiac at Penn, Wednesday TBA
Princeton at Evansville, Tuesday 5 p.m.
Wofford at Pittsburgh, Wednesday TBA

SECOND ROUND (March 19)
Milwaukee-TCU winner vs. W. Illinois-OSU winner
Washington State-USF winner vs. N. Dakota State-Wyoming winner
Delaware-Butler winner vs. Quinnipiac-Penn winner
Wofford-Pittsburgh winner vs. Princeton-Evansville winner

Semifinals, March 21

Finals (best of 3) March 26, 28 and 30

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-10 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel

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