One thing you can say about the College Basketball Invitational — its not afraid to be different.
As Wyoming and Coastal Carolina get ready to play Monday for the CBI championship, it’s not a one-game format. When the CBI was created 10 years ago it went with a best-of-3 series for the championship.
UW (21-14) plays at Coastal Carolina (19-17), located in Conway, S.C., at 5:30 p.m. MT. Game two is in Laramie at 7 p.m. MT Wednesday. If a third game is necessary, UW hosts that one as well at 5 p.m. MT. All games are televised on ESPNU. If you’re wondering why a potential third game is at such an odd time, don’t blame UW, it has to do with TV.
As for the best-of-3 format, first-year UW coach Allen Edwards said: “We’ll try it out. It’s differnet when you think about what is traditionally done in college basketball. It has more of a NBA feel. I’m interested to be a part of it and see.”
The NBA now uses best-of-7 series’ for all of its playoff games. There used to be best-of-5 for early round playoff matchups. The travel between Laramie and Conway is 1,810 miles and that will make things interesting for that second game in Laramie Wednesday — not just how both teams adjust from the first game, but also fatigue from travel, etc.
Wyoming completed its first week of spring football practice Saturday in War Memorial Stadium. Saturday’s practice marked the first one in full pads.
Here’s what fourth-year UW coach Craig Bohl said after practice:
Media members are allowed to watch the first 30 minutes of each practice, so there isn’t a ton of specific information I can provide, but here are some of the things that stood out to me after the first week:
— A lot of people ask me who made the most gains weight-wise from the end of last season until now. UW’s spring roster lists weights from last season. But I can tell you that junior offensive tackle Zach Wallace, who played at 297 last season, is up to around 310 this spring. All of UW’s tight ends did well in the weight room. I hardly recognized junior Josh Harshman when I went to the first practice. He looks a lot thicker, and I’ve been told he is around 235-237 pounds. He was in the 220s last season. Also, junior safety Marcus Epps looks a lot thicker.
It’s been three months since Wyoming football played its last game, but football returns to UW starting Tuesday with the first of 15 spring practices.
The Cowboys must replace junior running back Brian Hill, who left UW after his junior year to try his hand a pro football. Hill was UW’s career-leader in rushing yards (4,287) and rushing touchdowns (35).
The top four guys — in alphabetical order — to watch this spring are junior Nico Evans (5-9, 205), redshirt freshman Mike Green (5-11, 205), sophomore Milo Hall (5-8, 190) and redshirt sophomore Kellen Overstreet (5-11, 215).
“Each one of them is unique,” UW running backs coach Mike Bath said. “Nico physically looks good. He’s strong and works his rear end off. I think he can be a Shaun Wick type of guy, which is positive. He’s smart, reliable and understands hat we want to get accomplished.
Answer this question for me: Why is the perception or vibe of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) generally negative among most fans, yet in college football most teams are celebrated when they get bowl bids to such games as the — and I’m just throwing out a few names here — the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Belk Bowl and Dollar General Bowl?
Not including the College Football Playoff semifinals and championship game, there were 38 bowl games for the 2016 seasons. That’s 76 teams out of close to 130 in the Football Bowl Subdivision. A good number of .500 teams, and even below .500 teams, have gone to bowl games in recent years to fill those slots.
Throw in the CFP teams, and about 61 percent of FBS teams play in postseason bowls in 2016, and over the last five years or so.
There are 351 Division I college basketball teams. This year, 132 made one of four postseason tournaments, which equates to 37.6 percent.
Tournaments like the CBI and CIT don’t hold the same prominence or clout as the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, and probably never will. But most college bowl games don’t hold the interest level compared to the CFP games or the bigger bowls such as the Rose Bowl.
But when you break it down, what is the difference between going to a lesser-than bowl in football and playing in a postseason basketball tournament like the CBI?
There’s been a lot of firsts for Wyoming men’s basketball this season.
A first-year coach.
First-year players, and others with bigger roles.
Five UW players will go through another first Wednesday when the No. 7 seed Cowboys (18-13) play No. 10 Air Force (11-20) at 2:30 p.m. MT in a first-round game. They will play in their first-ever MW Tournament game.
Two in particular are sophomore guard Justin James and junior forward Hayden Dalton. Both were on the team last year, but were suspended prior to the tournament after being cited by Laramie police for drug use. James and Dalton are UW’s two leading scorers at 15.5 and 12.5 points per game, respectively.
“It hurt knowing I couldn’t be out there helping my team in some way. This year I’m ready to play,” James said.
Needless to say, UW needs both players to have good games Wednesday, but perhaps the biggest area is ball security. James and Dalton lead UW in turnovers. Between both, they average about five turnovers per game, and many of them are careless turnovers that can easily be avoided.
As Wyoming gets set to begin play in the Mountain West Tournament at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday against Air Force, it appears — and this isn’t breaking news — that the MW will again be a one-bid league to the NCAA Tournament.
Last year, San Diego State went 16-2 in MW play and was the top seed in the MW Tournament. It lost to Fresno State in the tournament’s championship game, and played in the NIT. Nevada won this year’s regular-season MW title, and although its RPI entering the MW Tournament is 36, the Wolf Pack seemingly has to win the tournament to get to the NCAAs.
Right, wrong or indifferent, on a national scale the MW is a mid-major conference. The days of getting multiple teams into the NCAA Tournament, let alone five not that long ago, are gone — at least until its 11 hoops-playing members win some notable nonconference games.
First-year UW coach Allen Edwards was asked about this perception Monday, and had this to say: “Sometimes the perception hurts because of the year San Diego State (sixth seed) and New Mexico (fifth seed) has had, and probably because those guys not taking down a Power 5 team. This is a well-balanced league and we’ve been beating up on each other. Sometimes that looks bad. There are teams in this league can go into the (NCAA) Tournament and get a win. Nevada is a good team. So is Colorado State, Boise State, Fresno State. … I can go down the list all the way down to us (the seventh seed in the MW Tournament). I disagree with people saying it’s down year or a one-bid league.”
Morris Marshall’s career with the Wyoming men’s basketball team hasn’t been full of a lot of bright spots.
The 6-foot-4 guard came to UW last season from Santa Fe Junior College in Florida, and he averaged three minutes in eight games in 2015-16.
This season, with a new coach and more up-tempo offense Marshall’s role figured to increase. However, he’s dealt with a nagging shin injury since the summer. Although he’s been healthy the last few weeks, Marshall has played in only 13 games and averaged 6.5 minutes per contest.
Marshall’s final home regular-season game for the Cowboys is at 2 p.m. Saturday against San Jose State. Will he play, and how much, remains to be seen. But whether he plays or not, Marshall’s been an important part of this team according to one of its key players.