The 2019 College Basketball Invitational bracket was revealed Sunday night, and is headlined by a pair of high major schools.
Here’s how it sets up:
It's official. Let the games begin!#CBI2019 #GoBruno #LanceUp #ONEMatador #ChantsUp #dpubb #LopesUp #HowardMBB #GoWood #JoinThePride #RunWithUs #SMTTT #SeawolvesUnited #UVUhoops #HailWV #WinAsOne pic.twitter.com/TyrHIuYGug— College BBall Invit. (@CBITourney) March 18, 2019
The elephants in the room are clearly West Virginia and DePaul. Not since Colorado played in the 2015 tournament has the CBI had a team from a power five conference or the Big East in its field. Neither enters with a winning record, but the 15-15 Blue Demons and 14-20 Mountaineers add a special kind of flavor to this year’s tournament. Both are also playing relatively well, with West Virginia reaching the Big 12 Tournament semifinals, and DePaul picking up March wins against Georgetown and St. John’s.
Elsewhere, there are a trio of WAC teams including one — Cal Baptist — in its first year as a Division I program. Behind a powerful backcourt duo in sophomore Milan Acquaah and senior Jordan Heading the Lancers were able to post a solid inaugural campaign (16-14, 7-9). They’ll host an all-SoCal matchup against James Batemon and a Loyola Marymount team that opened the season at 12-2 with non-conference wins over UNLV, Georgetown and Boise State.
Under first-year coach Griff Aldrich, Longwood will make its first Division I postseason appearance, and gets a home date with Southern Miss. A Lancers team with just two seniors in its rotation saw an eight-game improvement under Aldrich, who at one time in his career practiced law while moonlighting as an AAU coach. He talked about what the opportunity means in a release.
“As we continue to seek to establish a strong foundation for this program, being selected to play in the postseason is a special milestone. With so many underclassmen on our roster, this tournament will provide our program with an opportunity to continue to compete for championships and also help us tangibly raise our expectations and the standard for Longwood basketball.”
Coastal Carolina returns to the CBI two years after falling to Wyoming in the best of three championship round. The Chanticleers went 9-9 in the Sun Belt, and are led by explosive senior forward Zac Cuthbertson.
Teams must pay an entry fee to participate in the CBI, which can dissuade some from taking part. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that host teams will pay the CBI $40,000 to host the first two rounds this year.
The tournament has been a springboard for teams in recent years as Loyola Chicago and Nevada won the championship in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Last year’s winner, North Texas, started this season at 20-4, but faded down the stretch. The runner-up, San Francisco, enjoyed a 21-win season of its own and held legitimate at-large aspirations at one point.
This year’s crop of teams will hope that success in the CBI portends 20-win seasons like that a year from now.