Chuck Landon: MU Needed To Grab Chance To Keep Playing

Welcome to "Second Guess" Tuesday.

Lots of opinions followed me home from Birmingham, Ala.

n Should Marshall have pursued a berth in a post-season tournament such as the, College Basketball Invitational or the new Vegas 16?

In theory, the answer is yes. I mean, what's not to like?

The Herd was a young team with only two seniors. So, the opportunity for more practices, more games and more teaching seems to be a no-brainer. Even if it means playing in a non-descript, post-season tournament, it's still a chance to get a head-start on next season. There is absolutely nothing to lose.

Can anybody imagine Marshall's football program turning down a chance to play in a third-rate bowl such as the Boca Raton Bowl or the Bahamas Bowl?

Of course not. It would be ludicrous.

Besides getting an opportunity to play another game, the biggest advantage is all the additional practice sessions, which are devoted to coaching up the younger players.

The premise is no different in basketball. Yet, the mind-set certainly is.

Just ask Marshall coach Danny D'Antoni and UTEP coach Tim Floyd. Both voiced no interest in participating in the CIT or CBI.

Why? I'm not sure.

But it's interesting that no Conference USA basketball program is competing in a post-season tournament other than the NCAA and NIT.

UAB, a surprisingly low No. 7 seed, takes on No. 2 BYU and Ripley native Chase Fischer at 10 p.m. Wednesday in first-round NIT action in Provo, Utah. Then, in the NCAA Tournament, No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee plays No. 2 Michigan State at 2:45 p.m. Friday in the Midwest Regional at Chicago.

But the other 12 C-USA teams are staying home for some reason. That's not the case, however, with other leagues. In fact, such long-time Marshall rivals as Morehead State and Ohio are playing in the CBI.

As for the CIT, such schools as Grand Canyon, Furman, Ball State, Savannah State and Norfolk State accepted bids.

The inaugural Vegas 16, a tournament played at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on March 26-30, still hasn't extended bids.

So, why is there a NIT-or-bust philosophy in Conference USA?

Perhaps, some member schools had bad experiences in these below-the-radar tourneys. I know Marshall certainly did. The Herd participated in the CIT twice 2010 and 2011 under then-coach Donnie Jones. It wasn't pretty.

Marshall's players wanted no part of playing in the CIT and it showed in their lackluster performances. In 2010, Marshall barely defeated Western Carolina, 90-88, in the first round and lost to Appalachian State in embarrassing fashion, 80-72. In 2011, Marshall lost a first-round game to Ohio, 65-64.

So, apparently, some players look down their noses at these tournaments and think they are below them. They are wrong. A chance to compete is a chance to improve. Anyone who chooses not to isn't a competitor. It's that simple.

That's why Marshall's basketball program should have grabbed any opportunity to keep practicing, keep playing and keep improving.

Just as Marshall's football team does.

n Austin Loop should have made C-USA's all-tournament team.

Marshall's 6-foot-4 sharp-shooter averaged 19.0 points and was extremely consistent, scoring 18 points in a win over UTEP and 20 in a loss to Middle Tennessee.

Besides, Loop set a tournament record for most three-pointers in a game when he was 6-for-13 from behind the arc against UTEP.

I know he got at least one vote.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at [email protected].

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