NORMAN — Since Oklahoma probably will finish with a losing record, most assume the Sooners (12-14) have no shot at postseason play.
That's not true.
OU's season probably will end at the Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament in Kansas City. But a losing record doesn't prohibit teams from postseason play.
When the NCAA took over the NIT six years ago, two changes were implemented:
*Schools that win regular-season conference titles but don't win their postseason tournament receive automatic NIT berths.
*Teams no longer are required to post a .500 or better record.
Teams with losing records also can be invited to the College Basketball Invitational.
But teams must have a winning record to be invited to the CIT, the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament, which targets mid-major schools.
You didn't know there were four men's college basketball postseason tournaments?
The CBI, a 16-team tournament, began three years ago. Tulsa won the inaugural tournament in 2008.
The CIT also is a 16-team tournament that began two years ago. Old Dominion won the inaugural tournament, Missouri State last year.
For the Sooners, the NIT would be the ideal situation because of exposure (TV contract with ESPN) and the tournament's rich tradition.
But even though the .500 rule was changed the NIT still hasn't invited a team with a losing record.
That's why with an RPI of 132, Oklahoma's best shot probably is the CBI, which featured five teams with RPIs of 140 or lower last season.
The CBI has invited four teams with losing records its first three seasons — Oregon State (14-17) last year; St. John's (16-17) and Oregon State (13-17) two years ago and Cincinnati (13-18) in the inaugural 2008 tournament.
Similar to the NIT, the CBI plays games on college campuses.
One difference is the CBI features a best-of-3 final. The tournament is run by the Gazelle Group, a New Jersey marketing firm that hosts early season basketball events.
Ray Cella, public relations director for the CBI, said it's too early to speculate which teams might be considered.
“We look at how teams are playing at the end of the season, their overall season, pretty much what everybody else looks at,” Cella said. “But Oklahoma is the type of program we would look at.”
OU might not be invited. But if offered a CBI bid, would the Sooners accept? More practices and more games would be invaluable for a young team that will return four starters and six of its top seven scorers next season.
But there is another variable. An expensive variable.
Seton Hall and other schools have turned down CBI bids for two reasons — a lack of interest playing in a third-tier tournament and a pay-to-play requirement.
According to published reports, home teams in the CBI must guarantee paying up to $70,000 toward expenses for the visiting team, game operations and the Gazelle Group. The CIT requires a guarantee of nearly $30,000. Schools have negotiated other arrangements, but that's the standard fees.
Using a football analogy, the NIT is like the Alamo Bowl. The CBI and CIT are like the Humanitarian Bowl.
But if a school is invited, and is willing to pay a guarantee, even teams with losing records are eligible.
Men's postseason tournaments A record 132 teams will be needed to fill out four men's postseason basketball tournament brackets: *NCAA: The field has expanded to 68 teams with four play-in games that feature the final at-large qualifiers. *NIT: A 32-team single-elimination tournament. Games are played on college campuses. The semifinals and finals are held at Madison Square Garden. *CBI: Originated in 2008, the 16-team tournament includes teams from BCS conferences. Games are played on college campuses, culminating with a best-of-three final. *CIT: Originated in 2009, the 16-team tournament targets schools outside the six major conferences. Games are played on college campuses and a .500 or better record is required. Note: The NIT and CBI do not require a .500 or better record to be invited.