While college basketball fans across the country were busy filling out their brackets after the NCAA tournament field was announced Sunday, the College Basketball Invitational was finishing up seeding its group of teams.
The entire 2014 CBI tournament bracket can be found here. The home teams are in capital letters, and the field will be rebracketed after the quarterfinals.
While there are a number of intriguing squads in the CBI, there were also some legendary college basketball programs that declined to be a part of the tournament. Indiana and Maryland were both offered spots but elected to forego being included in the field, via Dustin Dopirak of the Bloomington Herald-Times:
Hoosier Scoop: Indiana opts not to enter CBI http://t.co/hdCdzgUsNQ— Dustin Dopirak (@DustinDopirak) March 17, 2014
Looks like Maryland, several others passed on the CBI as well. Penn State is in it though. http://t.co/9FsR9ieba6— Dustin Dopirak (@DustinDopirak) March 17, 2014
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon addressed his disappointment that the Terps’ season was coming to an end, via Daniel Martin of Comcast SportsNet Baltimore:
"We're disappointed our season came to an end, considering we played some of our best basketball down the stretch. I look forward to our coaching staff and players working hard to take the necessary steps to advance our program."
Now that we know what the field looks like and which headlining programs declined to be a part of it, let’s dig into a couple of CBI predictions.
CBI Tournament 2014 Predictions
UTEP, Penn State, Wyoming and Oregon State for the Final Four
Unlike the NCAA tournament, some teams in the CBI get to enjoy home-court advantage in the early rounds. That will pay dividends for the four squads that are predicted to make the Final Four here—UTEP, Penn State, Wyoming and Oregon State.
UTEP finished a respectable 23-10 on the season and knocked off Tennessee in the nonconference schedule. Perhaps the most impressive performance of the season for the Miners is the fact that they only lost by four points to Kansas.
Aaron Rich of KTSM/KDBC points out that UTEP is no stranger to the CBI:
It's UTEP’s 3rd CBI appearance (2008, 2009). The Miners reached the ’09 finals before falling to Oregon State in three games.— Aaron Rich (@AaronRichSports) March 17, 2014
As for Oregon State and Penn State, both of these teams have been battle-tested throughout the regular season against elite competition. After bruising campaigns in the Pac-12 and Big Ten, neither will have an issue reaching the CBI semifinals.
Who is the best team of this hypothetical Final Four?
Wyoming is a bit more of a stretch because the Cowboys lost five of their last six games, but they proved how formidable they can be on Feb. 11 with a win over then-No. 5 San Diego State.
Wyoming plays at a very slow pace, but it is efficient in the shots it does take (24th in the country in field-goal percentage). Postseason games often come down to half-court possessions in the final minutes, and that is a situation in which the Cowboys will be very familiar.
Penn State Wins the CBI
While Wyoming, UTEP and Oregon State each have strengths to bring to the table, Penn State will emerge with the CBI Championship.
The Nittany Lions count two victories over Ohio State, a win over Nebraska and a win over Indiana in Bloomington on their resume and played a more difficult conference schedule than anyone else in the CBI field.
Penn State is ranked No. 82 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, which is the best of any of these projected Final Four teams and higher than a handful of NCAA tournament teams, and has an underrated D.J. Newbill to lead the way. In fact, Newbill averaged 17.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game and made a number of clutch shots for the Nittany Lions in Big Ten play.
If Penn State is in a tight contest down the stretch, there isn’t a player in the CBI field who would be better suited to making a game-winning play than Newbill.
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