The College Basketball Invitational tournament begins on Tuesday, and no this isn't the Big Dance, but college hoops junkies or fans with their favorite teams in action will still take note.
Potential NBA prospects will also be playing, so that is another reason to follow the CBI.
The 16-team field will begin play at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday with three games scheduled. On Wednesday, the remaining five games will be played to conclude the first round.
Here is a look at the match ups:
George Mason (18-14) at Charleston (24-10) - 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday
Texas (16-17) at Houston (19-12) - 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday
Western Illinois (22-8) at Purdue (15-17) - 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday
Vermont (21-11) at Santa Clara (21-11) - 10 p.m. ET on Tuesday
Tulsa (17-15) at Wright State (21-12) - 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday
Richmond (18-14) at Bryant (19-11) - 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday
Lehigh (21-9) at Wyoming (19-13) - 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday
North Dakota State (24-9) at Western Michigan (20-12) - 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday
About the CBI
The tournament is re-bracketed after the first round, but that's not the only unique thing about the CBI as it compares to other college basketball tournaments.
This description comes directly from GazelleGroup.com, the organization that puts the CBI together:
The College Basketball Invitational (CBI) is a postseason tournament comprised of a 16-team field and hosted at on-campus arenas throughout the country.
The CBI is a single-elimination tournament, up until the Championship Series. The Championship Series is a best-of-three series. The CBI provides a meaningful opportunity for teams that are deserving of a postseason experience.
The 16-team field consists of teams not selected for the NCAA Tournament. Teams are invited based upon performance during their conference and non-conference schedules, as well as how well the team is playing at the end of the regular season.
The three-game championship series is my favorite aspect of the entire tournament. The games are played on campus, so fans can attend games easier.
This is the sixth annual tournament with the Pittsburgh Panthers having captured the crown in 2012.
Predicting the First-Round Winners
Charleston Cougars over George Mason Patriots
The Patriots' biggest issues in this game will be finding another dependable scoring option behind Sherrod Wright.
The 6'4" junior guard leads the team in scoring at 16.5 points per game, but the Patriots have struggled to find a Robin to his Batman. No other player averages double figures, and against a strong defensive team like the Cougars, that will be exposed.
Look for the interior defense and shot-blocking from Adjehi Baru to be a factor. He leads the Cougars in rebounding and blocked shots
Playing the game at Charleston makes this an even bigger obstacle to climb for George Mason. Look for the Cougars to move on.
Houston Cougars over Texas Longhorns
It should be a good two days for Cougars—as it pertains to collegiate mascots. Houston has really underachieved this season, in my opinion. The team has quite the dynamic duo with Joseph Young and TaShawn Thomas.
They are averaging a combined 34.7 points per game this season.
Scoring is not a problem for the Cougars, but defense is. They are allowing just under 73 points per game, and that could be an issue. However, they are facing an offensively challenged Longhorns team.
Texas scores just 65.4 points per game.
Myck Kabongo is an exceptional talent at point guard, NBA scouts will be taking note of his performance, especially if he decides to enter the draft this summer.
He makes Texas a better offensive team, but not good enough to expose Houston. This will be a fairly high-scoring game, but in the end, the Cougars have too much firepower.
Purdue Boilermakers over Western Illinois Leathernecks
The Boilermakers were terribly inconsistent in the rugged Big Ten conference. They finished just 15-17, but they do own wins over Minnesota and Wisconsin, so they have the ability to compete with and beat quality teams.
The Leathernecks had a great regular season as evidenced by their 24-8 record. But they lost in the Summit League conference tournament and were denied entry into the NCAA tournament.
Their slow-paced offense and stingy defense will be a challenge for Purdue, but ultimately the overall talent advantage and experience playing in the Big Ten will prevail.
Look for Terone Johnson to explode. The Leathernecks don't have an answer for his off-the-dribble game.
Santa Clara Broncos over Vermont Catamounts
Vermont is just too undersized. Even with Brian Voelkel giving a valiant effort in the middle, at 6'6" he doesn't have the size to contend with the 6'9" Marc Trasolini inside.
Voelkel's ability to step outside and make perimeter shots helps, but it won't prevent the Broncos from pounding the Catamounts in the paint.
Being tasked with overcoming a size disadvantage and the Leavey Center crowd is too much. Vermont's stay in the CBI will be a short one.
Tulsa Golden Hurricanes over Wright State Raiders
Even though Wright State is at home and had the better record during the regular season, the Golden Hurricanes will emerge victorious.
The Raiders will again be without their injured leading scorer Cole Darling per Dayton Daily News. They pride themselves on playing great defense, and they only allow 58 points per game.
But Darling last played on Feb. 12, and the team is just 4-3 since he went down.
Look for the backcourt combination of Scottie Haralson and James Woodard to spur the Golden Hurricanes to the road win.
Bryant Bulldogs over Richmond Spiders
Neither team is playing especially well heading into the tournament. The Bulldogs have lost three of their last five and the Spiders have lost three of four.
But Richmond have shown some flashes this season. They actually knocked off VCU in January, but they have been plagued by inconsistency.
Much of that inconsistency can be attributed to poor rebounding. They only average 29 rebounds per game as a team, and that will be their biggest impediment in this one.
Bryant will pound Richmond on the glass led by Alex Francis.
He had 25 points and eight rebounds in a losing effort against Mount St. Mary's in the NEC tournament, and he's averaging 17.4 points and 8.7 rebounds for the season.
He will lead the charge as the Bulldogs will defend their home court with a big win for the program.
Lehigh Mountain Hawks over Wyoming Cowboys
The Cowboys' confidence has to be shot. After starting the season strong, the team has lost seven of their last eight games.
They are at home, but I really don't think it matters for them at this point.
Even without the Mountain Hawks' injured all-world guard C.J. McCollum, they should still win this game. Gabe Knutson, Mackey McKnight and Holden Greiner have all stepped up in McCollum's absence.
Each of them is averaging double figures, and though they miss McCollum, they are a more balanced-scoring team now.
Wyoming has struggled to score all year, and have only cracked the 70-point mark once since December. Lehigh will win this one easily.
North Dakota State Bison over Western Michigan Broncos
This may be one of the best games of the first round. The Bison received a huge boost from the return of their star Taylor Braun. He's averaging 15.7 points per game this season, but he's scoring 21.5 in his last four games and the junior guard has to be considered a possible NBA talent for either 2013 or 2014.
Adding him back in the mix with Lawrence Alexander and Marshall Bjorklund gives the Bison a nice three-headed monster.
The Broncos' big man Shayne Whittington will be a tough assignment for the Bison, but in the end their already solid defense will be augmented by Braun's scoring punch and they will win on the road.
Who Wins it All?
I go back and forth with North Dakota State and Purdue. In the end, I believe Purdue playing in the Big Ten hurt their overall record, but it also masks the fact that they may have a few of the other teams in the field out-classed.
The Boilermakers will be the 2013 CBI champs.
Before the NCAA tournament begins, here's a printable PDF bracket.
After the NCAA tournament begins, follow the live bracket.
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