VCU used the CBI to build the foundation for a Final Four run. Does another Cinderella story start here?
The College Basketball Invitational may not have the prestige of the NCAA tournament or even the NIT, but it can be a valuable experience from which a young team can build.
VCU won the tournament in 2010 before running all the way to the Final Four the following season. Pittsburgh turned its 2012 CBI title into a 2013 invitation to the Big Dance.
Sixteen teams will try to follow that lead in 2017. Last year’s NIT champion, George Washington, is the headliner of a group that also includes mid-major standouts like George Mason, Green Bay, and San Francisco. They’ll clash to crown the king of the postseason’s third-most important bracket, a title that presumably comes with shirts that say “at least it’s not the Vegas 16!”
The field is a bit barren this spring. Not a single invitee ranks in Ken Pomeroy’s top 100 teams. That leaves teams like USF (No. 105), George Mason (No. 114), and Toledo (No. 129) as the bracket’s presumptive favorites.
The tournament has shifted to favor mid-major opponents in recent years. After teams like Pittsburgh, Oregon, and Oregon State took home three of the first five CBI tournaments, the field has shifted away from including Power 5 participants. Only one team from a major conference has graced the bracket since 2015 — and that was a 15-17 Colorado team.
CBI action kicks off Wednesday night, when seven of the eight opening-round games go down. The quarterfinals will take advantage of Monday night’s lack of NCAAT games.
Rice 85, San Francisco 76
Georgia Washington 73, Toledo 69
Coastal Carolina 83, Hampton 67
Loyola (MD) 73, George Mason 58
Utah Valley 74, Georgia Southern 49
UMKC 92, Green Bay 82
Here’s the bracket in full, with a game between Stony Brook and Illinois-Chicago moved to an unfortunate Thursday night time slot (in direct conflict with the opening day of the NCAA Tournament), thanks to snowstorm concerns in the Windy City.