There's a common theme here in the College Basketball Invitational semifinals; young teams getting better heading into next season. It is often said that teams can use a postseason appearance to begin planning and grooming for next season, and that appears to be what our three remaining foes are after - the three teams combined will (as far as graduation goes) lose a total of two seniors and zero starters from this year's squads. The one team that didn't advance? Princeton, of course. That's what you get for having four seniors on your roster, I guess.
Siena 54, Penn State 52
This is a great time, the CBI semifinals, for you to get a look at what could be next season in the MAAC for the Siena Saints. Everybody will return next season (they lose one senior who played all of 12 minutes this season) and right now they are rolling. Their overall record is 17-17 right now, but they are actually 7-3 over the past month and a half (with two of those losses coming against Canisius. They have needed the late season run to find their offensive groove, as they finished the regular season 238th in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks in large part to poor shooting and only O.K. rebounding.
Sophomore forward Brett Bisping stepped up his game tonight, as he has throughout this late season run, to the tune of 12 points and 12 rebounds, giving him 16.5 ppg and 8 rpg over the past six games after averaging only 10.8 and 6.3 for the season. The Saints opened the game missing 11 of their first 15 shots and committing seven turnovers to stick them in a 17-9 hole at the under-eight TV timeout, but they righted the ship from there. Shooting 46% the rest of the way plus a season high 17 points from freshman Lavon Long meant that Evan Hymes' layup with four seconds left was just enough to keep Siena's season going.
Old Dominion 82, Radford 59
What an up and down year it has been for Old Dominion - literally; tonight's win is only the second time in the last two months that they've won consecutive games. This result was definitely not what you would expect from a team that had only cracked 70 points scored on four occasions prior to doing it twice in two CBI games. This game pitted ODU (257th in adjusted offense, 101 in adjusted defense) against Radford (112, 325) and it turns out that a bad offense took advantage of a worse defense to have their best game of the season.
A season high 23 points, along with 10 rebounds, from junior Richard Ross led the way for a Monarchs squad that shot 52% from the field (the fifth time in their last seven games they've shot at least 47% from the field). They held the Highlanders to only 37% shooting and dominated on the boards (44-29), which led to Radford scoring less than 70 points for only the second time in their last 13 games.
Illinois State 62, Texas A&M 55
You would expect that a game where both teams are in the top 100 defensively and bottom 150 offensively in terms of efficiency would be a slow affair with poor shooting - and you'd be right! This game was an anemic 11-8 affair eight and a half minutes into the game, and the two teams were a combined 3-for-15 from the field in the first five minutes. The difference was that Illinois State eventually found their rhythm, while the Aggies never got going.
After missing seven of their first eight shots, the Redbirds went on to shoot 49% from the field the rest of the game, including a ridiculous 68% on two point shots. The Aggies, on the other hand, went three minutes without a field goal on three separate occasions in the second half alone.
Daishon Knight continued his late-season improvement for ISU, as his 17 points and nine rebounds led the team and bumped him up to 15.5 points per game over his last eight. Illinois State will now face the previously mentioned Siena squad in the semifinals.
Fresno State 72, Princeton 56
The Fresno State Bulldogs, your non-mid-major interloper. Here is all you need to know about why Princeton lost this game:
Hans Brase and T.J. Bray: 41% FG, 36 points, 16 rebounds
The Other Seven Guys: 23% FG, 20 points, 8 rebounds.
You can't have two guys take half your shots and shoot good-but-not-great, and then have nobody else do a damn thing. That's a great way to lose any game at any time of year. That is all.