Like a jockey trying to navigate his thoroughbred out of the starting gate, the mainstream media was in a rush late Monday night to disclose their wildly varied early rankings for the 2013-14 college basketball season. Instead of trying to assemble our own subjective, inconsistent rankings, we decided we’d simply piggyback off the work of others and put together a consensus of those rankings.
Below is an admittedly rudimentary conglomeration of 10 separate top-25 rankings for next season, which are not terribly consistent in expectations. Since the NCAA’s declaration deadline for the NBA draft has not yet arrived, there’s no consensus as to which players will be returning that haven’t yet decided. Thus, rankings are all over the place.
Nonetheless, we’ve taken those 10 polls and given 25 points for first place, 24 points for second and so on. Each team’s best and worst ranking has been thrown out to account, somewhat, for the wild fluctuation from poll-to-poll.
To no one’s surprise, Kentucky was the unanimous pick for the No. 1-team in the country. After that, there’s not a ton of consensus. Louisville comes out second, but Russ Smith has since thrown his hat in the NBA ring for next season, which means their spot is tenuous at best.
Behold, the way, way too early consensus top-25 for next season…
The CIT comes to a conclusion tonight at 8:00 PM Eastern as the East Carolina Pirates travel to Ogden, Utah to take on the Weber State Wildcats in the championship game. The game will be televised live on CBS Sports Network.
East Carolina finished tied for fourth in Conference USA this season, and was 18-12 after Tulsa knocked them out in the CUSA quarterfinals. They pulled out a 1 point come from behind victory over Savannah State in the CIT first round before cruising through to the finals, beating Rider by 21, Loyola by 11, and Evansville by 13. Their top players this tournament have been Maurice Kemp and Robert Sampson, with Kemp being the team’s top scoring threats, having posted at least 20 points in eight straight games.
Weber State finished one game behind Montana in the Big Sky standings, and fell to the Grizzlies in the Big Sky title game, sending them to the CIT. They entered this tournament with 26 wins, and now stand at an eye-popping 30-6 entering tonight’s championship game. The Wildcats cruised through the first three rounds of the CIT, beating Cal Poly by 42, Air Force by 21, and Oral Roberts by 9. Their semifinal against Northern Iowa proved to be the great game that was predicted, with Weber State able to pull out a 59-56 victory in a game that came right down to the wire. Weber State has a balanced scoring attack and leads the nation in field goal shooting percentage. They showed just how complete of a team they are in their semifinal win over UNI when they were held to just 39% shooting but still found a way to pull out the victory.
Tonight’s winner will be the first of four Division I Men’s Basketball championships awarded this season, with the CBI title to be decided either Wednesday or Friday, the NIT champion to be crowned on Thursday, and the National Championship to be decided next Monday night. However, the CIT title game does mark the end of our featured Small Conference games this season. Don’t worry though — the start of the 2013-14 season is less than seven months away!
Two of the spots in the NCAA Final Four will be determined today. However, those are not the only two Division I men’s basketball games on the schedule. In addition to the two Regional Finals, the CIT semifinals will be played today to determine the teams that will meet Tuesday night in the championship game. Today’s schedule (all times Eastern) is:
Evansville (21-14) @ East Carolina (21-12) 5:00 pm
Weber State (29-6) @ Northern Iowa (21-14) 8:00 pm
Both games will be streamed live at watchcollegeinsider.com.
While the first game on the slate presents an interesting match-up of teams that had somewhat mediocre regular seasons before putting together a run to this round of the CIT, it is the later of the two games that is clearly our featured game of the day. Weber State and Northern Iowa were, on paper, probably the two favorites to take the CIT title this season, anf the winner will clearly be the favorite to cut down the nets as champion.
Weber State sits at 29 wins on the season and has a chance to reach the elite level of 30 victories tonight. They were clearly the second best team in the Big Sky this season behind Montana, and but for a bad loss in conference play to Montana State, might have had a chance to host the conference tournament which could have resulted in a different NCAA tournament representative out of the Big Sky.
Northern Iowa was solid all season in the Missouri Valley Conference, picking up a win over Wichita State on the way and playing at times like a potential NCAA tournament team. They have already eliminated conference-mate Bradley, Illinois-Chicago and North Dakota in this tournament, all by fairly easy margins. However, Weber State has been even more decisive in their CIT victories, including a 42 point blowout of Cal Poly in the first round. While tonight’s game is far from the most important college basketball game to be played today, it may very well end up being the most exciting.
The quarterfinal round of the CIT comes to a close tonight when Oral Roberts travels to Weber State for a 9:00 PM Eastern game (live streaming at watchcollegeinsider.com). The winner of tonight’s game will play Saturday at Northern Iowa for the right to advance to the championship game.
On February 23 of this year, ESPN’s final BracketBusters event occurred. While 13 games were chosen for coverage on the ESPN networks, well over 30 additional games were played. As we noted back then, the most intriguing game that did not get ESPN coverage was Weber State, who at the time sat in second place in the Big Sky, traveling to Oral Roberts, who was in second place in the Southland. Tonight, the two teams will have a rematch, this time in Ogden, Utah. The first meeting between the two teams was won by Weber State, 70-66. Kyle Tresnak led the way for the Wildcats in that game, scoring 20 points.
Oral Roberts enters tonight’s game with a 20-14 record. They have a trio of all-conference players, led by Damen Bell-Holter. However, they are going up a team that, but for a 3 point loss to Montana in the Big Sky conference championship game, may have gone down as Weber State’s best team ever. Weber State currently sits at 28-6 overall on the season, a win total that is already both a school and Big Sky record for victories in a single season. In addition, senior Scott Bamforth set the school record during their win last round over Air Force with 247 career three-pointers. The record he broke was the one set the by Damian Lillard, now a rookie star for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. The Wildcats will attempt to capture their 29th victory tonight…and hope to then extend that to 30 and 31, which would capture this year’s CIT championship.
The CIT moves on to the quarterfinal round tonight, with three games on the schedule. Tonight’s schedule is as follows (all times are Eastern and all games are streamed live at watchcollegeinsider.com):
Loyola MD (23-11) @ East Carolina (20-12) 7:00 pm
Evansville (20-14) @ Canisius (20-13) 7:00 pm
Bradley (18-16) @ Northern Iowa (20-14) 8:00 pm
The featured game this evening is the final game on the list, Bradley’s second trip of the season and third game this year against Missouri Valley Conference mate Northern Iowa. These two teams met at UNI back on January 12, with the Panthers cruising to an 83-54 victory. The game was a lot closer when the Braves hosted on February 10, but UNI pulled out a 68-65 win to sweep the regular season series. However, tonight’s game is the most important of the year for these two teams as the winner will advance to the semifinals of the CIT and have the chance to hang a postseason tournament championship banner.
Bradley enters tonight’s game at 18-16 overall. They beat Green Bay in the first round and Tulane in the second round of the CIT to advance to the quarterfinals. Northern Iowa, on the other hand, enters with a record of 20-14. Their two CIT victories so far were over North Dakota and Illinois-Chicago. At one point this season, UNI seemed to be on course to challenge for an NCAA tournament berth, especially after defeating Wichita State. However, a few late season losses and then being knocked out of the MVC tournament in the quarterfinals by Illinois State sent UNI to the CIT instead. This team is talented enough to continue winning and, at this point, appears to be one of the favorites to cut down the nets next week. However, first they must do one of the most difficult things for a college basketball team to do — beat the same team three times in one season.
The final second round game of the CIT is on tap for tonight as the UC-Irvine Anteaters travel to Oral Roberts to take on the Golden Eagles (8:00 PM Eastern, watchcollegeinsider.com). Oral Roberts enters tonight’s game at 19-14 overall coming off of their first round victory over Texas-Arlington. A win tonight would give the Golden Eagles their sixth 20 win season under head coach Scott Sutton since he took over the program’s reigns in 2004-05. ORU is led by a trio of all-conference performers, Damen Bell-Holter, Warren Niles and Shawn Glover. Bell-Holter led the Southland Conference in both scoring and rebounding during league play this season and is a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the court.
UC-Irvine comes into tonight’s game at 21-15 on the season. The defeated High Point in the first round of the CIT. The Anteaters notably knocked Big West conference regular season champion Long Beach State out of the conference tournament before losing to Pacific in the finals. This postseason appearance is the school’s first since 2002.
Tonight marks the third all-time meeting between these two schools. Oral Roberts won at UC-Irvine back in 1985, and Irvine returned the favor winning at ORU the following year. The winner of tonight’s game will advance to the CIT quarterfinals, and is scheduled to play at Weber State on Wednesday night.