Q: When is a meaningless game in a parasitic tournament not a meaningless game in a parasitic tournament?
A: When one of your players shoves an opponent, a fight nearly breaks out, the fans get in a lather and give the home team a standing ovation after a hard-earned victory.
The College Basketball Invitational and the CollegeInsider Tournament are money grabs waterskiing in the wake of the NCAA tournament, created in recent years to capitalize on the wild popularity of the Big Dance.
As tournaments go, these are the kiddie pools, even compared to the NIT. Sure, they draw big-name programs, but the inherent question is whether some of these teams are just going through the motions.
“Nobody cares” is how the refrain goes, public interest overwhelmingly directed toward the NCAA.
So it was an interesting juxtaposition on Tuesday night, when the Siena men played Stony Brook at the Times Union Center in the CBI, while UAlbany was in Dayton, Ohio, pulling out the first NCAA tournament victory in program history.
The Great Danes were the toast of the national stage, and will go on to play No. 1 seed Florida in Orlando on Thursday, a spectacular, crazy whirlwind to DisneyWorld.
Siena’s magic bus, meanwhile, had been parked in the garage since losing in the quarterfinals of the MAAC tournament over a week ago.
The MAAC wants as many of its teams to be playing at this time of year as possible, and Siena gratefully accepted a spot in the CBI.
And it was totally worth it.
With scant time to publicize the game, the school did its best to hustle a crowd in there and drew 2,575, over 4,000 under the season average.
The grouchy crowd suddenly had a rally point with 16:59 left in the second half, when Siena’s Rob Poole and Stony Brook’s Kameron Mitchell were at the nucleus of what nearly was a fight between the teams in the end zone at the Siena end.
After Brett Bisping was fouled getting a rebound, Poole angrily shoved Mitchell in the back, and the teams scuffled briefly.
Three Saints were automatically ejected for leaving the bench, and the game remained chippy, but the light bulb seemed to go on for Siena, which gradually pulled away as the fans got louder and louder.
“It felt good when the referee said, ‘You have a good little crowd. I’ve done these before, and P.S., they’re still yelling at me.’ ” Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos said. “And I said, ‘Yeah, welcome to Albany.’ ”
Because of Siena’s 66-55 win, Albany will welcome the CBI back on Monday.
Poole downplayed the fight, but admitted that, CBI or not, it was pretty damn cool to be in a real game again.
“You want to win,” he said. “You come out there, and you really want to win.”