Some postseason basketball is better than no postseason basketball.
The College Basketball Invitational may be the red-headed stepchild to the NCAA tournament and National Invitation Tournament, but for the teams involved, it can provide the springboard to bigger and better things.
Virginia Commonwealth won the 2010 CBI and went on to make the Final Four in 2011. Pittsburgh and Oregon were the winners in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and they made the Big Dance in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Creighton finished runner-up in 2011 and has qualified for the NCAA tournament in every season since.
While the CBI isn't glamorous, it serves the dual purposes of getting players used to playing in a tournament atmosphere outside of their conference and can simultaneously be a motivational tool for raised expectations.
There's a strong chance that one or more of the schools in the 16-team field will be dancing in the next few years.
For now, though, they'll have to settle for the CBI.
Here's a look at the slate of Round 1 games on tap for Wednesday.
|Hampton at Penn State||7 p.m.||Hampton|
|South Dakota State at Old Dominion||7 p.m.||South Dakota State|
|Princeton at Tulane||8 p.m.||Princeton|
|Wyoming at Texas A&M||8 p.m.||Texas A&M|
|Morehead State at Illinois State||8 p.m.||Illinois State|
|Fresno State at UTEP||9 p.m.||UTEP|
|Radford at Oregon State||10 p.m.||Radford|
Games to Watch
Texas A&M vs. Wyoming
Texas A&M will be one of the toughest teams to beat in this tournament by virtue of its stingy defense. The Aggies rank 37th in defensive rating, and Ken Pomeroy has them at 51st in adjusted defense. Although they've had trouble on the offensive end, that defense puts them at a major advantage considering the quality of opposition.
Take Wyoming, for instance. The Cowboys are 163rd in offensive rating and 171 in adjusted offense. Even worse, they're averaging 65.2 points a game—good for 306th in the country.
Also working against Wyoming is that it has so little time to prepare for Texas A&M—less than three days—not to mention the Aggies have a serious height advantage, per Mike Vorel of the Casper Star-Tribune:
One key difference, however, is size. Texas A&M features 10 players on its roster that stand at least 6-foot-5. Jamal Jones, the team's only double-figure scorer at 13.6 points per game, is 6-8 but listed as a guard.
The Aggies are long and athletic at every position, and it will be a challenge for the undersized Cowboys to match up.
“They’ve got size. Their guards are pretty big, and they’ve got inside bigs," 6-2 sophomore guard Josh Adams said. "So we have to switch up the defense a lot and team rebound.”
Texas A&M should be able to suffocate the Cowboys on the perimeter and outwork them in the post. The Aggies have both the talent and physical advantages, so Wyoming will need to play a perfect game just to have a chance.
This game won't be pretty to watch for the basketball romantics, but with the similarity between the two teams and the defensive chess game that's bound to happen, it should be fun to watch.
Prediction: Texas A&M
UTEP vs. Fresno State
In terms of both overall quality and name recognition, this is the best first-round matchup of the tournament.
Fresno State went through a brutal run in January and December. The Bulldogs lost 10 of 13 games, slumping to 8-13 on the season. Then the Bulldogs recovered by winning eight of 10 to finish the regular season.
At the Battle 4 Atlantis back in November, UTEP beat Tennessee 78-70. Two days later, the Miners nearly beat the then-No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks, succumbing 67-63.
On the road, Fresno State is only 5-9, while UTEP is a solid 13-5 in the Don Haskins Center. Steve Kaplowitz of 600 ESPN Radio in El Paso is betting the team won't be leaving home anytime soon:
Between the Miners' impressive defense and the trio of Vince Hunter, John Bohannon and Julian Washburn, the Bulldogs will struggle to get going in this one. The Miners are too good, and playing at home they should have a raucous crowd behind them.