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Rick’s Picks: 2012 CBI Tournament preview and predictions

If A Tree Falls In The Forest…

This post may be coming a day late, the CBI tournament kicked off last night to three games, but so far my bracket remains intact (yes I did a CBI bracket, and you should too if you like college basketball).

TCU got a solid win over Milwaukee, Princeton cruised to victory over Evansville, and Washington State kept the PAC-12 perfect in tournament games with a win over San Francisco.

Today, as far as my fanhood is concerned, is really when the tournament begins to heat up. Not only is Oregon State vying to become a two-time CBI champion, but this year they will have to get past the likes of Pittsburgh, Butler and PAC-12 foe Washington State (who OSU only beat for the first time this year in the PAC-12 tournament).

For Oregon State, who opens the tournament tonight at home against Western Illinois, they’ll be feeding off of the momentum they created from the PAC-12 tournament.

Jared The Great

Jared Cunningham was named to the All-Tournament team while Sophomore forward, Devon Collier, played some of his best basketball of the year at the PAC-12 tourney, averaging nearly 18 points a game, to go along with 7 rebounds.

If Oregon State can continue to play at the high level we saw them at in Los Angeles, they would make a strong case to be cutting down the nets at the end of March.

The road to the championship game will not be easy, however. The biggest name that jumps out of the bracket at me is Pittsburgh. Granted, they have had a bit of a down year, but they play in the Big East, which is arguably the toughest conference top to bottom, in college basketball. Their quality wins this year include victories over Georgetown, West Virginia and Tennessee. Now, that’s not a bad list of quality wins for a team in the CBI.

Pittsburgh, according to my bracket, easily moves past their first round match-up, Wofford, barely gets by Princeton in Round 2 and finds themselves as one of the last four teams standing in the CBI.

Joining them would be Butler, cruising past Delaware and Pennsylvania, and Washington State, already with a win over San Francisco, and getting past their next (potential) match-up in Wyoming.

This leaves the final spot open for Oregon State, the CBI veterans. After TCU moved past Milwaukee last night, they will await the outcome of tonight’s OSU/Western Illinois match-up taking place at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.

Tip off is scheduled for 7pm (PST) and can be seen on HDNet, where available.

Jared Cunningham

Jared Cunningham was named to the All-Tournament team

Western Illinois and Oregon State have faced each other just one other time, back in 1982, with Oregon State winning the game 91-71. That OSU team had a guy by the name of AC Green on the roster, someone who just might be in attendance for tonight’s tilt with the Leathernecks of Western Illinois.

Call it a good omen, or whatever you want, but if Oregon State can put together the kind of performances that we saw during the PAC-12 tournament, Western Illinois should pose little threat to the Beavers, and they won’t need AC Green’s presence to propel them to victory; it’s always good to see former Beavers in attendance, though, and is invariably a welcome sight for Beaver fans.

I loved the shots of Gary Payton and Green sitting courtside at the PAC-12 tournament. They got the OSU crowd, what little there may have been at Staples, energized and in to the games.

After OSU cruises by TCU, they will be go up against, for the fourth time this year, the Washington State Cougars. WSU took the two regular season meetings, with Oregon State besting the Cougs in the first round of the PAC-12 tournament.

With a bit of a chip on their shoulder due to the latest loss, WSU will prove to be stiff competition for the Beavers, but I ultimately have them moving on to the championship game, awaiting the winner of the Butler/Pittsburgh semifinal game.

There are other teams in the CBI

As for Butler/Pittsburgh, two NCAA tournament teams from a year ago (Butler is also the NCAA runner-up the past two years), you get a match-up of two has-beens looking to secure any sort of positive conclusion to an otherwise disappointing season.

Although Butler has been the definition of an underdog squad the past couple of years, I see Pittsburgh getting by them to face the Beavers in a best of three championship series to determine the CBI crown.

I think the best of three series to determine the champion is such a great aspect of this tournament; it really is only pulled off because there are so few teams involved in the CBI, but still, I think it’s exciting.

Who’s cutting down the nets?

Oregon State prevails in this match-up, but not without some drama.

Dropping their first game, OSU rallies back and takes the next two games to secure their second CBI championship in Craig Robinson’s 4th year as head coach.

Jared Cunningham will be named MVP of the tournament, but Eric Moreland (if he can stay healthy), Ahmad Starks and Devon Collier will provide the necessary lift Oregon State will need to complement Cunningham’s game.

But again, March Madness proves year in and year out to be a mystery no one can seem to crack, except for a suburban soccer mom who somehow picks all the correct upsets because she “likes the mascots” or thinks they have “pretty jerseys.”

Jokes aside, even the CBI tournament can provide some drama where least expected, and it’s that aspect of the college game that keeps fans glued to their TVs all March, so sit back and enjoy.

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