It's the middle of March, and ya'll are probably watching your mid-majors in the NCAA tourney or the NIT (how about them Mercer Bears?). The CBI tournament is normally a mid-major dominated tournament, but this year, several power conferences were represented. The BIG 10 had the Penn State Nittany Lions, the SEC had the Texas A&M Aggies, and the PAC-12 had the Oregon State Beavers. Even the MWC had Fresno State. But the semifinals are composed of four mid-major teams. Which two will win big tonight?
Semifinal #1: Illinois State Redbirds vs. Siena Saints
How can Siena win?
Siena needs to rebound the ball. They are not a good field goal shooting team on average (42%), but they average almost 40 rebounds per game. That's good for 44th in the nation! They need to take advantage of the smaller Illinois State team. Most of Siena's 69.9 points come from stick-backs, put-backs, and getting fouled trying to grab the offensive boards. Brett Bisbing, the team's leading rebounder, has been playing extremely well as of late. Rob Poole and Lavon Long also need to get into the scoring act. This Saints team is very weak beyond the arc, so they need to get Evan Hymes going.
How can Illinois State win?
While Illinois State might be undersized, they are athletic. The team averages 5 blocks per game, so they won't be afraid to compete in the paint with the Saints big boys. They also average 8 steals a ball game, good for 24th in the NCAA. If Illinois State wants to hang with Siena in the paint, they'll need Michael Middlebrooks and Reggie Lynch to really step up.
Semifinal #2: Old Dominion Monarchs vs. Fresno State Bulldogs
How can Old Dominion win?
Old Dominion has been really inconsistent this year. The season has had runs (a four game winning streak and a 6 game losing streak) and patterns of win-loss-win-loss-win etc. The Monarchs are a good defensive squad, allowing 64 points per game to Fresno State's average of scoring 73 a ball game. They need to step it up offensively if they hope to play in the best-of-three championship series. How do they do that? Give the ball to Aaron Bacote and let him work his magic. Oh, don't worry, Bacote has a nice group of contributors in Dimitri Batten and Richard Ross, but Bacote is the one who needs to step up.
How can Fresno State win?
Fresno State will be looking for their 20th win of the season tonight, and sophomore Cezar Guerrero and senior Tyler Johnson are going to give it their all. They combine for an average of 32 points per game, good for 44% of the Bulldogs average points total. Defensively, they're not so hot, even freshman Alex Davis (who will be looking for his 60th career block, he's at 59). They will need to get Guerrero and Johnson going, while at the same time preventing Bacote from scoring his average of 16 points per game.