In college basketball, an invitational is a preseason or postseason tournament that certain colleges are invited to play among other schools. These tournaments give teams a chance to show their skills before entering conference play or compete for something in the postseason.
There are about 35 preseason events per year, with participants ranging from three to sixteen teams. They are often hosted at attractive locations to lure fans. These tournament games do count toward a team's overall record, but they are not usually held to the same standard of importance as conference games.
While these tournaments aren't always competitive, they give coaches, fans, and analysts a chance to see their team perform and make any necessary changes before the more meaningful conference games begin. The competition pool is usually a mix of major and mid-major programs, but a few more prestigious tournaments strive to include perennial blue-bloods.
There are four postseason tournaments for Division I college basketball: the NCAA Tournament, National Invitational Tournament (NIT), College Basketball Invitational, and the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
One postseason tournament is actually called the College Basketball Invitational. It is comprised of sixteen teams and runs from mid-March to early April. It is an alternative postseason tournament for teams not fortunate enough to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The College Basketball Invitational has been running since 2008. It is unique in that the championship round is a best-of-three series. Although it is one of only four postseason tournaments, it is considered to be the third- or fourth-best, trailing behind the NCAA Tournament and NIT in relevance.