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Post by ItsaBearsThang Mon Mar 15, 2010 8:34 pm

An overview of each of the 16 teams in the Second Annual College Insider Tournament Bracket.

Fairfield (22-10) @ George Mason (17-14)

Fairfield Stags (22-10, 13-5 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference): The Stags are making their first post-season appearance since 2003 when they made the National Invitation Tournament. Fairfield lost in an overtime thriller in the MAAC Championship Game against a Siena Saints team who is recognized as one of the best mid-majors in the country on an annual basis.

The team from Fairfield, Connecticut is lead by senior forward Anthony Johnson who garnered MAAC 1st-Team and Defensive Player of the Year honors. The leading scorer is freshman sensation Derek Needham with 16.2 PPG. Needham was named the Conference Rookie of the Year.

George Mason Patriots (17-14, 12-6 Colonial Athletic Association): The Patriots, best known for their magical Final Four run under genial coach Jim Larranaga finished in third in an extremely difficult CAA. George Mason has a balanced scoring attack, but is led by junior guard Cam Long who is averaging 12.2 PPG.

The school from Fairfax, Virginia had a good showing in the early season at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where they lost to Villanova by one point—69-68—losing a late lead to the Big East Powerhouse. The Patriots then lost to NCAA Tournament-bound Georgia Tech 70-62 before beating the Indiana Hoosiers 69-66.

George Mason got off to a blistering start in conference play, going 10-1 before losing 7 out of their last 9, including a 75-60 loss to Virginia Commonwealth in the CAA Quarterfinals, as they stumble into the postseason.

South Dakota (22-9) @ Creighton (16-15)

South Dakota Coyotes (22-9, 11-1 Great West): South Dakota earned the only automatic bid to the CIT by way of winning the Great West Conference Tournament. The Coyotes did dominate the new conference with the help of senior forward and Conference Player of the Year Tyler Cain who was the leading scorer with 15.1 points per game.

The school is currently in the transition to become a full-fledged Division I member, and the CIT will mark the first time the college in Vermillion, South Dakota will make a post-season appearance as a Division I basketball school.

USD defeated Houston Baptist 91-86 in the Great West Conference Tournament Championship to win their 13th game in a row—the longest active streak of any team in
the CIT field.

Creighton Blue Jays (16-15, 10-8 Missouri Valley Conference): The days of Kyle Korver and NCAA Tournament appearances might be long gone, but I found this interesting nugget from the CollegeInsider.com website: Creighton has now advanced to 13 consecutive post-season tournaments, a Missouri Valley Conference record.

Head Coach Dana Altman has been there for all those appearances. In his 16th season, Altman oversees a team that is lead by junior center Kenny Lawson Jr. who leads the team in points (13.1) and rebounds (6.Cool per game. The Blue Jays’ (located in Omaha, Nebraska) big wins this season came against in-state rival Nebraska Cornhuskers (67-61) and Wichita State, an NIT-bound team by a score of 57-56.

Creighton could never crack into the upper-echelon of a Missouri Valley Conference that featured a lot of depth—with five of their members playing in post-season tournaments—and eventually finishing 4th in the regular season, before bowing out in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament to the 5th seeded Bradley Braves 81-62.


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Post by ItsaBearsThang Mon Mar 15, 2010 8:35 pm

Part II

Harvard (21-7) @ Appalachian State (22-10)

Harvard (21-7, 10-4 Ivy League): The Harvard Crimson will be making their first post-season appearance in 54 seasons. Like so many teams in the field, 2009-2010 was a historical year for the Crimson, setting a school record with 21 wins.

Behind the play of senior guard Jeremy Lin, the 373-year-old school reached new heights, and scored some nice victories along the way beating Boston College in Chestnut Hill as well as knocking off George Washington and then William & Mary in three overtime thriller.

Tommy Amaker’s club finished 3rd in the Ivy League (which does not hold a conference tournament) behind Cornell (13-1 in Ivy League play) and Princeton (11-3). The Crimson did lead the conference in free throw shooting at 77% and field goal percentage (48%).

Appalachian State (22-10, 13-5 Southern Conference): The Appalachian State Mountaineers will make their fourth postseason appearance in school history, this time under the tutelage of head coach Buzz Peterson, who has made stops at Tulsa and Tennessee among others.

ASU --located in Boone, North Carolina-- is conducted on offense by junior sharpshooter Donald Sims, who is near automatic from the charity stripe at 95%. Senior Kellen Brand is the second biggest contributor offensively at 11.5 points per game, including a monster effort in Southern Conference semifinals scoring 37 points.

The Mountaineers have beaten four teams headed to the Big Dance (Morgan State, Winthrop, Robert Morris and Wofford in the regular season). ASU came up short in their bid for the 65-team field by losing to the Wofford Terriers 56-51 in the Southern Conference Championship.

Western Carolina (22-11) @ Marshall (23-9)

Western Carolina (22-11, 11-7 Southern Conference): The Catamounts 22-win season, the most since moving to the Division I level has parlayed into a tournament birth, their first postseason action in 14 years. The Southern Conference member gets it done on the defensive side of the ball as they are 9th in steals with 9.7 a game (per CollegeInsider.com).

WCU scored a program-changing victory by going into Freedom Hall on December 12th and stunning the Louisville Cardinals. That game helped the Catamounts get off to a blistering 15-3 start, before hitting a late-season slide at 7-8. Like Appalachian State, Western Carolina (located in Cullowhee, North Carolina) saw their Southern Conference Tournament run end to Wofford in the semifinals.

Marshall (23-9, 11-5 Conference USA): The Thundering Herd have changed the basketball culture in Huntington, West Virginia thanks to third-year coach Donnie Jones and a star freshman center in Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside fills up the stat sheet with blocks, points and rebounds (more on him later).

Although there is no official “bracket” for the CIT, Marshall is viewed upon as the number one seed is looked at as the team to beat in the 16-team field. Not bad for a program who hasn’t played beyond the regular season since a 1988 NIT appearance.

Whiteside gains most of the attention, and deservedly so, but the Thundering Herd have balance with Tyler Wilkerson averaging 14 points per game to go along with 7.2 rebounds, and guard Damier Pitts who can score (10 PPG) as well as dish (4.6 APG). The future looks bright for the school, with just two seniors, one of them being Wilkerson, the rest of the rotation with surprising depth are all underclassmen.

Marshall went down in the Conference USA quarterfinals to Tulsa by a final of 80-64.


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Post by ItsaBearsThang Mon Mar 15, 2010 8:35 pm

Middle Tennessee State (19-13) @ Missouri State (20-12)

Middle Tennessee State (19-13, 13-5 Sun Belt): MTSU makes their first postseason appearance in 21 years as they are commanded by the program’s all-time leading scorer senior forward Desmond Yates.

Yates and fellow senior Montarrio Haddock each average 13 points per game for the Blue Raiders. Kermit Davis’ squad finished the regular season with a share of the Sun Belt championship, but was ousted in the quarterfinals by the Denver Pioneers in a 73-58 defeat. MTSU (from Murfreesboro) comes into the tournament winners of 11 of their last 14.

Missouri State (20-12, 8-10 Missouri Valley): The Bears are the only team in the field to finish with a sub -.500 record in conference play, a testament to the strength of the Missouri Valley Conference this season. Missouri State is an up-and-coming team with just one senior on their roster.

MSU has the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year in junior guard Adam Leonard who is second on the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game. The Bears, located in Springfield, started the season 12-1 with wins over Auburn, Tulsa, Air Force and St. Louis. Missouri State had a tough time in perhaps the toughest mid-major conference this season in the Missouri Valley Conference by going 8-10 and eventually falling to Wichita State 73-63 in the conference tournament quarterfinals.

Portland (21-10) @ Northern Colorado (24-7)

Portland (21-10, 10-4 West Coast Conference): The Portland Pilots are another team that has reached new heights this season. The 21 wins match a school record, and the 10-4 WCC mark is their best in school history. The Pilots gained national notoriety early in the season, and even briefly gained a top 25 ranking.

Portland got a lot of publicity in the college basketball world in late November after they defeated the Oregon Ducks at home then put on a good showing at the 76 Classic in Anaheim by crushing UCLA by 27 points, then beating Minnesota the next day. The school is one of the two teams (the other being Pacific) that are making their second appearance in the College Insider Tournament.

Head coach Eric Reveno is quickly becoming a name getting thrown around by bigger schools thanks to his quick turnaround of a Portland program who had limited success before his arrival. The Pilots have a balanced attack with four players averaging double figures this season. The Pilots were knocked out of the West Coast Conference semifinals by eventual champion St. Mary’s.

Northern Colorado (24-7, 12-4 Big Sky): The Bears are making their first post-season appearance in the Division I ranks. Tad Boyle’s team is lead by senior guard Will Figures who is averaging 16.9 points per game. Figures had to elevate his scoring when second leading scorer Devon Beitzel went down late in the season with a foot injury. Beitzel will miss the rest of the season. Yahosh Bonner is another player of note, Bonner won the Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Boyle, born and raised in Greeley (where UNC is located), has guided the Bears to the post-season after finishing dead last in the RPI just three years ago. Northern Colorado has defeated Hawaii, Air Force and TCU in non-conference action this year. Northern Colorado finished second in the Big Sky Conference but was bounced out by eventual champion Montana in the Big Sky Conference Tournament semifinals, 68-63.


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Post by ItsaBearsThang Mon Mar 15, 2010 8:36 pm

Final Part

Pacific (20-11) @ Loyola Marymount (18-14)

Pacific (20-11, 12-4 Big West) The Pacific Tigers are making their second consecutive appearance in the College Insider Tournament. In last year’s tournament, the Tigers from the Big West Conference fell in the semifinals to the Bradley Braves.

The school from Stockton, California was expected to have a little bit of a fall-off after losing three seniors from the 2008-2009 team, yet they still found a way to 20 wins, as well as a share of the Big West regular season championship. The Tigers have just one player averaging double figures in points with junior forward Sam Willard averaging 11.2, but senior forward Joe Ford won Defensive Player of the Year in the conference for the second consecutive year, as well as being named to First Team All-Conference.

Loyola Marymount (18-14, 7-7 West Coast) Max Good is building something special in the City of Angels. The Lions, in Good’s second season went from 3-28 last year to a 15-win improvement at 18-14, all without a senior on this year’s roster. The CIT will be LMU’s first postseason appearance since the 1989-1990 season (think Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers).

On the way to this record-setting season, the Lions knocked off three big name opponents, winning at Southern California, at Notre Dame and at home against West Coast Conference foe Gonzaga.

Coach Good has a wealth of young talent and four players who average double digits in scoring. But perhaps the most two noticeable players are Drew Viney a sophomore transfer from Oregon who averages 16.7 points per game to go along with 7.1 rebounds and junior Vernon Teel who nets 15.2 points and 5.6 assists per game.

Southern Mississippi (20-13) @ Louisiana Tech (23-10)

Southern Mississippi (20-13, 8-8 Conference USA) Larry Eustachy’s squad has been getting it done on the front line all season-long leading the Conference USA in offensive rebounding at 12.8 per game as well as rebounding margin (+7) according to CollegeInsider.com. The CIT marks the first postseason action for Southern Miss in nine seasons.

Junior forward Gary Flowers has been a big part of the Golden Eagles resurgence with 15 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Flowers comes into the tournament as arguably one of the hotter players, averaging a double-double in all three of Southern Mississippi’s conference tournament games. Nine of the team’s thirteen losses have come by a margin of seven points or fewer. The boys from Hattiesburg lost in the Conference USA Semifinals to eventual champion, Houston.

Louisiana Tech (23-10, 9-7 Western Athletic Conference) The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs are getting better every year under third-year coach Kerry Rupp. The team from Ruston, Louisiana boasted a ten-game winning streak over the course of a month to get themselves in position for postseason play. Tech features a five-headed threat lead by senior guard Kyle Gibson who averages 18.4 points, he is complimented by senior forward Magnum Rolle with 14 points and 8 rebounds a game.

The CIT will mark the first postseason tournament appearance since 2006 for the Bulldogs.

Four Intriguing Players in the CIT

1.) Hassan Whiteside, Freshman C Marshall 7-0 235 lbs.

If you see a lot of NBA Scouts in attendance at any of Marshall’s CIT games this season, chances are that they are there for Whiteside, a prospect that makes some draft guru’s drool. Whiteside is currently projected as a fringe lottery pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Whiteside has already set the Conference USA record for blocked shots in a season, a category he leads the nation in with 5.4 a game.

The freshman from Gastonia, North Carolina has an unbelievable three triple-doubles this season, including a 14 point, 11 rebound, and 13 block performance against Central Florida. Whiteside did get outplayed by Tulsa’s Jerome Jordan (also a highly sought-after prospect) in a recent match-up, which leaves many wondering if he is NBA-ready right now. If Whiteside puts together a strong CIT, he might be able to put himself in the top 10 when the draft rolls around in June, making his departure from Marshall likely.

2.) Jeremy Lin, Senior G Harvard, 6-3, 200 lbs.

Lin has all sorts of athleticism, (go ahead and watch his dunk and block against Connecticut on YouTube) and he can score from all over the floor. He is probably the most clutch player in this tournament (see: Game Winner against William & Mary in triple overtime). The senior is carrying his own legend around the Ivy League community; it’s unfortunate not too many people around the nation have heard about him, because he is one of the more fun players to watch.

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun had this to say of Lin, “"I've seen a lot of teams come through here, and he could play for any of them.”

3.) Donald Sims Junior G Appalachian State 6-1, 170 lbs.

Sims might be the best pure shooter in the whole country. The native of Gaffney, South Carolina leads the nation in 3-point field goals made (108) as well as free throw percentage, going 162-170, which is an astonishing 95.3%. I watched the Southern Conference Championship game, always because that conference seems to produce a team that is capable of pulling an upset in the big tournament. I must have caught Sims on a bad day, he had a horrendous night shooting going 2-15 from the field and 1-8 from beyond the arc, my guess is he wants to get revenge from a poor showing on national television, look out Harvard.

4.) Derek Needham, Freshman G Fairfield 5-11, 180 lbs.

Derek Needham might be one of the more electric freshmen guards in all of the country, and I’m sure not many of people have heard of him outside the MAAC region. Needham has scored in double-figures in all but one game in his first campaign. He even has recorded two double-doubles, a 19 point 14 assist performance in a win against Sacred Heart included. Although Needham has to a better job protecting the ball, he is a player that might make his presence felt beyond the northeast region of the country if the Fairfield Stags are to make a run in the tournament.


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