It's not exactly March Madness. More like March Mild Enthusiasm. But as Husky guard Venoy Overton said "I'd rather play in this tournament...

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It’s not exactly March Madness.

More like March Mild Enthusiasm.

But as Husky guard Venoy Overton said “I’d rather play in this tournament than just sit at home doing nothing.”

So the Huskies reported for work again Monday afternoon saying they’ll treat their entry into the new College Basketball Invitational — hosting Valparaiso in a first-round game at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Edmundson Pavilion — with as much excitement as they can muster.

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“You want to be in the NCAA tournament, no doubt about that,” said UW coach Lorenzo Romar. “I don’t want anyone to get it twisted that ‘Hey, the season was great, we got to play in the postseason.’ No, that [the NCAA tournament] was our goal. But it didn’t happen, so now we continue to play and we are excited that we are still continuing to play.”

Even more so since it sounds like they may again have their leader guiding the way.

Junior forward Jon Brockman said Monday his sprained left ankle is doing “a lot better” and that “I think there’s a good chance I’ll be out there.” Brockman sat out UW’s loss to California last Wednesday in the Pac-10 tournament with the injury, suffered March 8 at WSU.

Romar was a little more cautious, calling Brockman “day-to-day” and Brockman didn’t take part in much of practice Monday.

But the specter of a postseason, even if not the preferred one, has Brockman enthused about getting back on the floor.

“I think it’ll be fun,” he said.

Especially now that they know who their opponent will be.

The Huskies found out late Sunday afternoon they would play in the tournament, then hit the court for a practice, expecting to learn of an opponent by the time they were done.

Instead, an opponent wasn’t named until around 11 p.m. Sunday. A few players went home and tried to keep tabs on what was going on. Forward Quincy Pondexter said he hit the refresh button on his computer constantly in anxious search of new information, remembering all too well how UW thought it had an NIT bid wrapped up last season only to get snubbed.

Pondexter said he began to wonder “if it was an internet joke, that a couple of guys put together an imaginary tournament. It was scary for a little bit.”

When Valparaiso was named, UW coaches were surprised, expecting to get a team from the West. Coaches and officials at the school in Valparaiso, Ind., about an hour’s drive from Chicago, were also caught off-guard at suddenly having to travel two time zones. Coach Homer Drew said he figured his team would stay in the Midwest.

“We thought it would be a bus trip,” said Drew, whose team instead caught a flight out of Chicago Monday afternoon and expected to get into Seattle around midnight. “But we’re still excited by it.”

Valparaiso went 21-13 overall this season, 9-9 in the Horizon League, tying for fourth. Senior forward Shawn Huff leads Valpo at 12.9 points per game, and ranks second in the nation in three-point percentage at 48.4.

“We’ve got some size and we shoot the threes quite a bit,” Drew said. “We’re a scrappy little team.”

In a way, the type of team this tournament was designed for.

With 341 schools now playing Division I basketball, the organizers of the CBI felt there were enough left out of either the NCAA or the NIT to put together a competitive tournament. It’s the first time a third tournament has been held since the National Commissioners Invitational Tournament was held for two seasons in 1974-75 (that tournament was started by the NCAA to compete with the NIT).

One reason it took awhile to complete the field was finding schools willing to host, which requires guaranteeing a payout of $60,000 to the CBI. Drew said Valparaiso would “not have been in a position” to host. UW officials say they’ll need to sell around 5,000 tickets or so (priced at $15 for the general public and $5 for students) to break even. The school keeps money above the $60,000 payout.

“I applaud our administration for backing us and allowing us to play in this tournament,” Romar said.

UW could have five more home games if it advances to the best-of-three final. Happiest of all were seniors Ryan Appleby and Tim Morris, who thought they had played their last home game Feb. 23 against ASU.

“I’m pretty lucky,” Appleby said. “Hopefully I get a couple more games at home.”

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or

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