NIT and CBI Reaction: Pac-12 TeamsPosted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) & Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 18th, 2014
Three Pac-12 teams that were not invited to the NCAA Tournament ended up receiving NIT or CBI bids. Let’s break them down in this instareaction format.
California – NIT, #2 seed in SMU Quadrant, vs. Utah Valley, 3/19, 7:30 PM PT – The Golden Bears had something of an argument for the NCAA field of 68, but nobody winds up all that shocked that they’re on the outside looking in. So, now, rather than playing for a national championship (at least in theory), Mike Montgomery and company have to shift gears and find something else to play for over their remaining games. For seniors like Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon, such a shift will be difficult, as the NIT is clearly not where those guys hoped to be ending their careers. But, for youngsters like Jordan Mathews, Jabari Bird, and Sam Singer, and even junior Ricky Kreklow, whose career has been limited some by injury problems, maybe they can use the NIT as a springboard towards the inevitably larger roles that they’ll have to take on next season. As for match-ups, they will get a Utah Valley team in the opener that they should be able to outclass on talent alone, but beyond that, they will need to begin bringing their A-games, as either Arkansas or Indiana State could give them a serious push in the second-round game.
Utah – NIT, #5 seed in Minnesota’s Quadrant, at Saint Mary’s, 3/18, 8:00 PM PT, ESPN2 – The Utes got jobbed. Plain and simple. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Going by the eye test, this team should have been one of the first four or five left out of the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the NIT selection committee relied far too much on strength of schedule and relegated Utah to a first round road game. Saint Mary’s, who most projected to barely sneak into the NIT, receives a better seed and will host the Utes. The Gaels finished fourth in the WCC and fell to Gonzaga in the semifinals of their conference tournament. They opened the year at 9-0, then went to Honolulu, got distracted by the beach, and fell hard from the ranks of the unbeaten. First came a loss against South Carolina. Then Hawaii nipped them, and then George Mason did the same on Christmas morning. And after sneaking past Pacific a few days later, they went up to Spokane and got hammered for a 22-point loss against the Zags. Things have been up and down since, with a little more good than bad, and the Gaels enter the NIT at a 22-11 clip.
Oregon State – CBI, vs. Radford, 3/19 – In most year’s, Oregon State’s 16-15 record, RPI rank, and number of quality wins would have earned it an invitation to the NIT. But due to an unusual amount of quality teams and required automatic bids, the Beavers have been relegated to the CBI. They finished tenth in the regular season and lost in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas against Oregon. After an embarrassing loss to Coppin State in the season opener, a game in which Devon Collier, Eric Moreland, and Hallice Cooke combined for zero points. The Beavers rebounded by winning six of their next seven, including victories against Maryland and Towson. Pac-12 play was an up and down affair, wherein they posted wins against the likes of Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona State, but still managed to finish 8-10. Radford makes the postseason after a huge amount of power conference teams declined to play in the CBI. The Highlanders didn’t have a bad season by any means, but finished at a quiet 21-12 without doing anything spectacular. Their lone game against a power conference opponent was at Virginia Tech in late November, when the Hokies pounded them 81-56. Junior forward Javonte Green should give the Beavers all they want down low, as Green is averaging 16.9 PPG and 8.2 RPG. His 33 point, 11 rebound performance at Charleston Southern in early February paved the way for a huge road win, and he also put up 25 in victories against Florida Gulf Coast and Liberty.