Men’s hoops will face Ohio in new postseason tourney

By
Monday, March 17, 2008

After Cornell dashed the men’s basketball team’s dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament last month, Head Coach Craig Robinson began telling his players that if they won their final four games, maybe – just maybe – they would still get to play in a postseason tournament.

So the Bears won their final four games, finishing second in the league and with the most wins in Brown history. And last night, they were rewarded with an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational, a new, 16-team tournament.

Tomorrow, the Bears (19-9) will play Ohio University, the host for the first-round game. The Bobcats, of the Mid-American Conference, are 19-12.

“I’m just really excited, happy to keep on playing,” said Robinson, who sounded tired as he stayed up into the wee hours this morning to learn of the Bears’ opponent.

The CBI is held by the New Jersey-based Gazelle Group, which has organized preseason basketball tournaments such as the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic. All of the games will played at schools competing in the CBI.

The teams will be seeded and put in a geographic bracket. The CBI will be single-elimination until the final round, which will be a best-of-three series. First-round games will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the final round could end as late as April 4.

Ohio should be a good match for the Bears. The Bobcats have a Rating Percentage Index ranking of 77, while the Bears have an RPI of 105. The two teams have two common opponents, in Cornell and Eastern Michigan. Ohio beat Cornell but lost to Eastern Michigan, while Brown beat the latter but lost twice to the former.

The Bobcats are led by 6-foot-8 forward Leon Williams, who is averaging 16.2 points and 9.7 rebounds a game.

The CBI lacks the name recognition and prestige of the National Invitation Tournament, or the NIT, which some basketball snobs already call the “Not Invited Tournament.” But guard and team tri-captain Mark McAndrew ’08 said the team is thrilled just to be playing more basketball.

“It’s just great to have another game to play,” he said, “and another great opportunity to show our progress throughout the year and show we can compete against a higher, major team.”

Robinson said that since the regular season ended last week, he had been pitching his team to officials at the CBI and the NIT. Some players had been hoping for an invitation to the NIT, but Brown wasn’t announced at the tournament’s selection show last night.

Robinson said he got a call from a CBI official around 9:30 p.m. last night, around the time the NIT show ended. But he didn’t learn that his team would be playing Ohio until almost 2 a.m.

The CBI posted the complete tournament field on its Web site early this morning. The other teams in the tournament are Bradley, Cincinnati, Houston, Miami of Ohio, Nevada, Old Dominion, Richmond, Rider, Tulsa, Utah, Valparaiso, Virginia, Washington and the University of Texas at El Paso.

Robinson said the team will probably leave today for Athens, Ohio. McAndrew said that the Bears, who have been practicing this past week in anticipation of postseason play, will be ready for the game.

“When we huddled up after practice (yesterday), Coach said it was one of our top five practices of the year,” McAndrew said. “The guys are confident, all right, and confident about what we can do.”

This will be the Bears’ fourth trip to a postseason tournament. They played in the NCAA Tournament in 1939 and 1986 and in the NIT in 2003.