–Kenny Rice
Lawyers, politicians,preachers, bartenders, they are all jumping into the same pool this month—the office pool. There is nothing close to the month long excitement of college basketball in March.
The Super Bowl has its two week build up, and is as much an event as a downright sports love fest. The World Series stretches for three weeks but like the NFL title game draws mainly the diehards from their team’s area or those scattered about the country still keeping tabs for old times sake.
But this madness goes a month with conference tournaments leading into more  tournaments. And the office pools, the day to day following and comparing notes and finding people in the North rooting for teams in the South is all because of basketball.
For purists it is about basketball, period. Some friends of mine began a pool last year in addition to the obvious one, the NCAA Tournament. Their pool was the College Basketball Invitational presented by Zebra Pens beginning tonight and running for the next three weeks exclusivley on HDNet.
As one of the announcers of this tourney, I found it exciting to know they were following every game. Their reasoning had nothing to do with me, it was about the game of hoops, the game they had all had grown up with and now had grown too old to play even competitively in recreation leagues. But they all appreciated what it takes to be in a post season tournament, the sacrifices, the talent to play at a major college level and the chance to see some team hoist the big trophy at the end of it all. It is everything a roundball fan can understand.
The most interesting thing about bringing 16 teams together from coast to coast and then narrowing it down to the final two who will play a unique best of three to determine the CBI title, is the personalities are so varied yet so similar. Not just the individuals but the actually units they make up.
A classic case is the two teams who will tip it off tonight live on HDNet at 7 PM ET. Davidson, dominated by underclassmen, hosts James Madison, a 21 wins club that was just a game or two away from breaking out into a bigger season. It is the contrasts of how a younger team has grown through the season and how much a more veteran team wants to prove it is indeed ready to show its merit in March.
I am an alum of a college that wasn’t at the bottom of the ladder in a powerhouse football conference but could almost always see it. When the bowl games expanded in the last decade this school has now gone to five straight bowls, no BCS games, but they are playing long after others have gone to get ready for next season. And this program has become fairly respectable with the experience and practice of continuing to play.
This can be said as well for the value of the College Basketball Invitational and how programs have developed through playing in this tournament. To still be viable to their fans and alumni in March. It creates a magical feel spreading throughout the campus and community. It could be called the CBI: Complimenting Basketball Intensity.
For a follower of hoops it never gets better than March, it’s tournament time all over.

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