March Madness is beloved because of its all-inclusive nature, but not everyone can receive an invite to the 68-team NCAA tournament. For those who also miss out on the NIT, the 2014 College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament looms as the consolation prize.
The 16-team field is a single-elimination tournament until the finals, which is a best-of-three format. For those who want to catch the action, check out the full field and first-round matchups below:
|Texas A&M||(4) Wyoming at (1) Texas A&M||Mar. 19|
|Texas A&M||(3) Morehead State at (2) Illinois State||Mar. 19|
|UTEP||(4) Fresno State at (1) UTEP||Mar. 19|
|UTEP||(3) Princeton at (2) Tulane||Mar. 19|
|Penn State||(4) Hampton at (1) Penn State||Mar. 19|
|Penn State||(3) Stony Brook at (2) Siena||Mar. 18|
|Oregon State||(4) Radford at (1) Oregon State||Mar. 19|
|Oregon State||(3) South Dakota State at (2) Old Dominion||Mar. 19|
It may not have the same grandeur as the championship in Arlington will, but some team will cut down the nets and end their season with as tourney champs. Here's a look at the teams most likely to raise the CBI crown.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State finished 15-17 on the season, but did notch a pair of wins over Ohio State during the regular season. KenPom has the Nittany Lions rated 82nd overall, making them the highest ranked team in the CBI field.
The team is led by junior guard D.J. Newbill, who paces Penn State with 17.8 points per game. Newbill recently passed a career scoring milestone against Wisconsin:
D.J. Newbill scores 23 in Penn St.'s 71-66 loss to Wisconsin, is school's 31st career 1,000-point scorer (ESPN) http://t.co/95vADspGqB— imsteveduncan (@imsteveduncan) March 2, 2014
Penn State will face Hampton in its first-round game before facing either Stony Brook or Siena in the quarterfinals. The Nittany Lions lost four nonconference games on the year, but did secure a Nov. 29 win against St. Johns, a No. 1 seed in the NIT, so they stand as clear favorites over the mid-majors.
UTEP slots in behind Penn State as the highest rated team according to KenPom, at 91st overall. The Miners surged to a 23-10 record and fifth-place finish in Conference USA, and could tie a school record with a tournament championship:
UTEP's strength is on the defensive end, where their 99.0 points allowed per 100 possessions is 62nd in the country. Senior center John Bohannon leads the team with 8.3 rebounds per game, while four players average at double-digit points per game for the Miners.
Fresno State looms as a first-round opponent, and then the winner of the Princeton-Tulane contest. The Ivy League runners-up are one of just five teams with 20 or more wins in the field, and could present a stiff contest if they travel to El Paso for the quarters.
Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State started the season hot, but an 8-10 Pac-12 record doomed any NCAA tournament hopes. The Beavers finished as the 103rd-ranked team in KenPom, but do boast wins over tournament teams in Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon and Stanford.
The CBI will mark the final games for the senior trio of Roberto Nelson, Angus Brandt and Devon Collier. Nelson is fourth on the Beavers' all-time scoring list, and some believe he was snubbed for an All-Pac-12 team selection:
Pac-12 awards reaction: How is Roberto Nelson not one of the conference's 10 best players?— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) March 10, 2014
Entering the tournament, the Beavers have dropped seven of their past 10 games, and could find itself in a shootout with first-round opponent Radford. Both teams average over 105 points per 100 possessions, and Oregon State is 50th in offensive efficiency. A matchup with either South Dakota State or Old Dominion looms for the winner.
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M is the lowest ranked top seed according to KenPom, as the Aggies finished 131st in overall rating. However, with the 51st-ranked defense, A&M also ranks as one of the most stifling teams in the tournament.
Indeed, while defense will carry the Aggies in the CBI, junior Jamal Jones may need to shoulder the majority of the offensive load. The JUCO transfer and ex-Ole Miss guard has been a revelation during his first season at College Station, where he arrived after nearly committing to Arkansas:
Biggest loss for Arkansas basketball this year has been not signing Jamal Jones. Searcy native been killing it for A&M in SEC play.— Doc Harper (@doc_harper) January 18, 2014
Jones and the Aggies will host three mid-majors in their pod: Wyoming, Morehead State and Illinois State. Illinois State has a similarly stifling defense, ranked 74th in the country, and the Redbirds could present the biggest challenge to A&M on their home court.
*All stats via KenPom.com.