Some may have heard of the College Basketball Invitational before and others hadn't until the Green Bay Phoenix accepted an invitation to face Vermont in the opening round. Apparently the event wasn't overly popular with the fans either. Just 2,611 showed up at the Resch Center to see the Phoenix dumped in the first round 76-72.
Green Bay, normally a good free throw shooting team, saw their accuracy go south in the final minutes and a couple of costly turnovers helped decide this as well. Green Bay is also a good 3-point shooting team, but last night they shot just 28% from downtown. Senior Ryan Tillema scored just 8 points and only made 2 of 10 shots from the field in his final game.
The loss in UWGB's first postseason appearance since 1996 ends its season at 22-11. Vermont moves on to the CBI quarterfinals.
EDITOR'S COMMENT: When you're involved in college basketball, your goals should include a post-season appearance. But in Division 1 college hoops, that should mean either the NCAA Tournament or the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). That's where it should end.
How does one get excited about anything less? Based on the 2,611 fans that showed up in Green Bay for the opening round of the College Basketball Invitational between the Phoenix and the Vermont Catamounts last night, most fans would agree.
If you're not among the NCAA's original 65 and you're not good enough to make the NIT field of 32, then try walking away and waiting for another day, instead of trying to justify your 22-win season by accepting an invite to play in the 16-team CBI. You're just showing everybody that you rank somewhere below 100 and then you lose your opening round game.
Green Bay coach Todd Kowalczyk will spin it a few different ways, I'm sure. But this was supposed to be the year. This was supposed to be the class that was going to put Green Bay over the top. When push came to shove, the Phoenix melted down the stretch. They pretended to have their feathers ruffled when the Cleveland State coach dissed them with some comments heading into the Horizon League Tournament. Green Bay couldn't wait to get a crack at the Vikings in the tournament, if Cleveland State could make it to the semifinals, because the Phoenix had a bye to that point. What happened? You guessed it. Green Bay lost to Cleveland State. Kowalczyk has spent plenty of time letting you know that they had to try to overcome the adversity of losing their top defensive player, Terry Evans to a shoulder injury. Yet Cleveland State played that game without one of its top players as well, and won.
The Phoenix may have won 22 games this season, but when they needed to win most, they couldn't get it done, not even in the CBI. Is the season over now, or is their another tournament out there to try to save face?