Texas Longhorns Basketball: Previewing the CBI Field

I am a Catamount. - David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

A look at the 16 team CBI tournament.

So Texas begins its post season Wednesday night, visiting Houston for the first round of the CBI tournament. I am sure that everyone has many questions, so let's try to catch a few of them.

1. What the hell is the CBI?

The CBI stands for the College Basketball Invitational tournament. It is a 16 team post season tournament that started in 2008, when Tulsa beat Bradley to win the championship. It is an unusual tournament in that it is single elimination until the final round, when the last two teams standing play a best of three series.

2. What other teams have won the CBI?

Here is a list of past CBI champions. It is not exactly a murderers' row of college basketball blue bloods, but the tournament has managed to draw better programs in the last few years.

2008 -- Tulsa (Runner up: Bradley)

2009 -- Oregon State (Runner up: UTEP)

2010 -- VCU (Runner up: Saint Louis)

2011 -- Oregon (Runner up: Creighton)

2012 -- Pittsburgh (Runner up: Washington St.)

3. What channel do I tune to to catch all of the thrilling CBI action?

CBI games air on something called AXS TV. I have no idea what this is, but I understand it is one of those channels you might get if you have some sort of crazy cable TV package with channels in the thousands, and the accompanying remote that allows you to enter numbers using scientific notation. I will most likely have to resort to listening to the games on the radio.

4. Is it OK to make fun of the CBI?

Yes. Yes it is. Although it is still basketball, so that counts for something. Soon, we won't have any basketball left, and we will have to once again resort to watching Air Bud clips on YouTube to get our sad fix.

5. Is there anywhere where I can get a bracket for this mess?

Yes. The CBI website is very helpful and informative. Here is a direct link to a PDF bracket.

6. Nice. Thanks for the bracket. What in the hell is a Catamount?

The Catamount is the mascot of Vermont, and also, apparently, of Western Carolina. According to this handy page put together by the Western Carolina athletic department, a catamount is some sort of big fluffy thing that looks like a house cat, but is somewhat larger and much, much more fierce.

7. So Vermont is in the CBI. Are they any good?

Vermont finished second in the America East conference, behind conference powerhouse Stony Brook. But then Vermont (and Stony Brook) honked it in the conference tournament, and here they are, in college basketball's post-season purgatory. They are actually pretty decent, led by 6-8 junior Clancy Rugg, and his front court mate Luke Apfeld.

8. What other teams are in the CBI?

Here is the full field, with a few notes on each.

George Mason -- The school where Texas coach Rick Barnes got his first head coaching gig, and that Jim Larranaga led to the 2006 Final Four, rolls into the CBI with a 18-14 record. They are coached by one-time Georgia Tech head man Paul Hewitt. George Mason was a delegate to the US Constitutional Convention.

College of Charleston -- Back in November, these guys went into Waco and beat Baylor, and it caused a big stink. They finished third in the Southern conference behind Davidson and Elon.

Texas -- I think you know something about this team.

Houston -- Texas' first round opponent is an old SWC rival, but these days plays in the basketball atrocity known as Conference USA. The Cougars are coached by a familiar SWC face -- James Dickey, who last coached at Texas Tech just before the Bobby Knight Experience came to Lubbock. (Caution: the Bobby Knight Experience is rated R for violence and strong language. Children under seventeen are not admitted without a guardian.)

Dickey's team can score, but they don't defend particularly well. The two players to keep your eye on are TaShawn Thomas, a 6-8 forward who can score inside and who is trouble on the glass, and Joseph Young, a guard who is lethal from three.

Western Illinois -- I am not even going to pretend that I know anything about this team, although I do know how to look stuff up. They finished tied for first in the Summit League, and their mascot is the Leathernecks, which is pretty awesome.

Purdue -- At last, another team that is probably super-pissed to be in the CBI. Purdue went 15-17 overall, and finished 8-10 in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers are probably the strongest team in the field.

Vermont -- See above. Again, a big fluffy cat, but fierce.

Santa Clara -- The Broncos play in the WCC, meaning they spent this season serving as cannon fodder for Gonzaga and St. Mary's. They are actually pretty good, with a balanced offense and an upperclassmen heavy squad. On offense, they liberally jack threes, and on D they look to prevent opponent attempts from deep.

Tulsa -- A 2012 CBI banner would look really nice next to that 2008 one.

Wright State -- The third best team in the Horizon League, Billy Donlon's team is known for its idiosyncratic style of play. They force turnovers at an extraordinary rate, and yet manage to run a staggeringly slow and grinding offense. They either get a steal and go end to end, or they walk the ball up the floor and take their time. It's pretty odd.

Richmond -- Richmond finished in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic 10. The Spiders are undersized, shoot threes more often than almost any other team in the country, don't turn the ball over, and limit opponents' three point attempts. They are deadly from outside, but they don't rebound at all -- sort of like a actual spider.

Bryant -- I had to Google this school to figure out where it is located. When you Google Bryant, Bryant Heating and Cooling Systems comes up first, and this institution second. Bryant is located in Rhode Island. They finished tied for second in the Northeast Conference. Kenpom.com indicates that they have a pretty good offense, but that their D is rubbish.

Lehigh -- Well we're living here in Allentown, and our superstar point guard went down. And it looks like he's not going to plaaaaaaaay, no waaaay. Until next year in the NBA.

Wyoming -- The Cowboys were one of the hot teams at the start of the season, and didn't lose a single non-conference game. But then star senior Luke Martinez was suspended for the season, after being arrested for his alleged roll in a New Year's Eve barroom brawl. Wyoming ended up going 4-12 in the brutal Mountain West.

North Dakota State -- The Bison are not a team to be taken lightly. Led by tough inside scorer Marshall Bjorklund, who is active on the offensive glass, Saul Phillips' team also had the best defense in the Summit League.

Western Michigan -- The second team in this tournament with the Bronco as a mascot, the men from Kalamazoo were the third best team in the MAC this year.

9. So who is going to win this damn thing?

The numbers make Purdue the favorite, although Richmond also looks strong. They really drag this thing out, so we won't know for sure who wins until early April.

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