The 68 teams in the NCAA tournament won’t be the only ones playing basketball in late March thanks to the likes of the NIT and CBI.
The CBI may not get the recognition or glory that the Big Dance does, but it is the final chance for a number of formidable players to make their impact on the 2013-14 college basketball season. With that in mind, let’s dig into a discussion about some stars to watch in the 2014 CBI.
D.J. Newbill, Penn State
There isn’t a team in the CBI field that played as demanding of a conference schedule as Penn State did in the Big Ten.
The Nittany Lions were led by D.J. Newbill this season, who averaged 17.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game and made a number of clutch shots in conference play. He is a primary reason why Penn State beat Ohio State twice, Nebraska and Indiana in Bloomington.
In fact, Newbill and teammate Tim Frazier were honored by the Big Ten after the regular season, via Penn State Hoops:
Newbill has played in some of the most intimidating venues in all of college basketball. He will not be afraid of the moment in the CBI and is better suited than almost anyone in the field to take the final shot of a close game.
Looking forward, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Penn State won the entire tournament, given the quality of opposition it is accustomed to from the Big Ten.
If that is the case, Newbill will be on the short list of tournament MVP candidates.
Josh Adams, Wyoming
Wyoming had NCAA tournament aspirations when the season began, and the talent level was clear in close early-season contests with Colorado and Ohio State. The Cowboys also upset San Diego State and took New Mexico to overtime twice.
However, when Larry Nance Jr. went down with injury, the rails fell off the campaign and any hope Wyoming had in the Mountain West tournament was virtually destroyed.
That shouldn’t take away from what Josh Adams has done in Nance’s absence though.
Who will win the CBI?
Adams assumed the role of go-to scorer after Nance’s injury, and he has carried the offense in the past few games. In fact, Adams averaged 24 points a night in the Cowboys' final four contests, grabbed 15 rebounds in the final two and dished out 14 assists in the final three.
On the season, he is averaging 12.9 points, three rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, but he has been much more formidable as the alpha scorer in Wyoming’s offense.
Looking ahead, if Adams stuffs the stat sheet against Texas A&M, the Cowboys may just pick up a victory over an SEC team.
Roberto Nelson, Oregon State
Craig Robinson, who coaches Oregon State and just so happens to be President Obama’s brother-in-law, is probably the most famous person on the Beavers sideline, but Roberto Nelson deserves some recognition as well.
Nelson averaged an impressive 20.5 points, 3.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds a game all while serving as a threat from behind the three-point line and a nearly automatic free-throw shooter. However, Robinson is more proud of the way his senior grew beyond the box score in his four years at Oregon State, via Connor Letourneau of The Oregonian:
When he first got here, he thought that scoring 40 a game was the way you won games.
Now he gets it. I don't have to be on him about how hard he needs to work or why study hall is important. There's a whole list of things to go back and work on. Now he's telling the youngest guys about it.
Nelson will use his experience and talent to guide the Beavers past Radford and the winner of the Old Dominion and South Dakota State game into the Final Four of the CBI.
There are few players across the entire country, let alone the CBI, with as diverse a skill set as Nelson. He can shoot from long range, slash past defenders and get to the rim, set up teammates with open looks when the defense collapses and play solid defense of his own.
It will all be on display during the CBI.
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