–Kenny Rice

Rick Giles does not, repeat does not have a crystal ball. It just appears that way to basketball fans around the nation.

Giles is the founder of Gazelle Group which creates, represents, and consults with sporting and entertainment events. He is the brain behind the College Basketball Invitational, which begins this week on HDNet. It’s the tournament that selects teams after the NCAA and NIT have chosen their participants.

So after all that when the top ninety or so have been picked, really what’s left but a bunch of “others”? As it turns out, plenty. A tournament full of talented squads that were either overlooked or underachieved. Giles has shown an uncanny instinct for finding those teams that are a year away from hitting their stride, and the CBI has become the showcase for hoop mavens already in search of those clubs on the horizon.

In three CBI tournaments (’08-’10) out of the 48 teams that have played, an amazing 32 of them were in the post season the following year including 12 in the NCAA tournament. The CBI class of 2010 included 2011 NCAA Final Four surprise VCU and Morehead State, which shocked Louisville in the opening NCAA round.

From the 2011 field, Creighton has been a top 25 team all season, Davidson, Montana, Oregon and UCF are poised for more post-season action.

There is a method to finding that “needle in a haystack” team on the verge of being conference contenders. Giles has been working the phones, watching the conference tourneys, and having more scenarios than a soap opera writer could imagine in place before the CBI selections are made. He literally is studying the map for travel feasibility, regional match-ups and available arenas. And he doesn’t have time for ‘maybes’ when it comes to those who will continue playing in March.

“I’m pretty direct with the teams. If you’ve got a bunch of seniors and you’ve underachieved, there’s nothing left in the gas tank where the coach and players are tired of each other, you’re not a good prospect.” Giles bluntly explains. “We try to get the team themselves to do a self evaluation. It causes the coach and players to look each other in the eyes and decide ‘we have gas left in the tank. There is some work left to do and we want the opportunity.”

This tourney has never been about simply filling up 16 bracket spots. It isn’t a consolation, rather an extra chance for teams to get reinvigorated, prove something to themselves and their followers. As Creighton coach Greg McDermott explained of the CBI impact on his squad last year, “The extra practices and six extra games have been invaluable.”

Giles notes this tourney is about “eliminating older teams and getting younger teams.” A team with a chip on its shoulder is a perfect find, as was the case two years ago when an up-and-coming squad from the Colonial Athletic Association was passed over by everyone except Giles.

“VCU felt cheated, left out. They had something to prove and came into our tournament and won it and built from there.”

A year later the country discovered what the CBI had already, coach Shaka Smart’s Rams were the real deal. They embarked on a never to be forgotten run through the Big Dance, all the way to the Final Four.

It’s basketball foreshadowing at the finest. If you are curious about what is going to be happening in 2013, who will be the next surprise team, the odds are strongly in favor they will be playing these next two weeks in the CBI. It is the perfect showcase for incentive and grooming that a rising team needs.

Or maybe Giles does have a crystal ball in his Princeton, New Jersey office after all.


The CBI tips off March 13th on HDNet with Princeton vs. Evansville at 8pm ET followed by Washington State vs San Francisco at 10. Sit court-side with us on our facebook page, and root on your team on twitter using the #CBIonHDNet hash tag.

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