Asking the two heads of Blockero to choose what's best for UCLA is akin, in my mind, to asking for enough rain to avoid yet another year of drought in California. The prospects are unlikely at best. The debate about the NIT surfaces from time to time on Bruins Nation, so maybe the better part of discretion is not to jump at the bait. (Hell, maybe we'll even get invited to the Big Dance, but I agree with DCBruins, who said, "Plaschke probably has it right." And even if we are invited, I believe these arguments are still worth making.)
So here I am jumping at the bait anyway. Why? Well, I guess it's because I revere UCLA's athletic history. The last time I checked we had won more NCAA titles than any other school, and we're still waiting to celebrate our 100th year. (Is it possible to have a block party in 2019 without inviting Blockero?)
But back to UCLA's history. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Steve Alford couldn't have done much better than he did this year. (And I certainly don't agree with that premise, taking the most basic parameter into account, namely consistency.) Even if you believe Alford did the best possible job, we should say "no" to the NIT. (And JB15 said it as well as it's possible to say it — "Who wants to play to be the 69th best team in the country?")
It seems to me that if there's anything — literally, anything — we should have learned from all the classes we took at UCLA it's that things have to be seen in context. What's the context here? Let's start with the women's basketball coach, Cori Close, who said, "We are really excited about the prospect of playing in the WNIT." Let's start with the pervasive influence of the Dan head. Or let's start with the Gene head. The same Gene head who supports a hotel complex on campus and on whose watch we lost the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging to the men (and women) of toy.
I can accept a year — even several years if I have to — of not competing in the Big Dance. Coach is gone, and we have seen the college game become a semi-tawdry event (in my opinion) as it emphasizes the one-and-done approach. (By the way, if there was a vote or even an opinion poll taken among fans that supported the NBA's use of college basketball as a farm system, I must have missed it.) And beyond all that, no one wins all the time, in sports or in life.
What I can't abide is an acceptance of mediocrity by the school I love. UCLA has writers it pays to write press releases, but if the challenge of politely declining a potential invitation to the NIT is too formidable, I'll get the process started. You say something like this: UCLA has decided not to compete in postseason basketball tournaments this year and wishes the NIT well.
And I'm sorry, but I can't accept Cori Close's view or a variant expressed on behalf of the men's team, if it comes to that. Work harder, or more efficiently, in the next practices available. (It's my impression that there are NCAA rules governing the number of times a team is allowed to schedule practices.) Encourage players to practice on their own. But don't compete to be "the 69th best team in the country."
It's either a truism, or the next closest thing, to say we live in a difficult and complicated world. And the answers to all kinds of problems — in sports, politics, and morality — are often elusive, but you don't make progress by diluting your standards. When has that ever worked? My answer is never, and never is how often I think UCLA (men's or women's teams) should compete in the NIT.