—Kenny Rice

So, how are you doing in your NCAA pool? Hitting about 65-70%? That’s average going into the Sweet 16 this week.

Probably didn’t think much about Virginia Commonwealth or Richmond or even Morehead State. Though they didn’t win a game were you surprised how close Princeton played Kentucky?  Had you been following the College Basketball Invitational presented by Zebra Pen the last three years you might have noticed they had some players, they had upset capabilities.

That’s the beauty of the CBI. It isn’t about trying to rival the NCAA tourney, it’s more like those football bowl games, while not BCS games they are a good indicator of young, promising teams to keep an eye on. This is the college hoops tourney showcasing the future, the up and comers for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

VCU, Morehead State and Princeton all participated in the CBI last season.As did three other NCAA teams this season, Boston U., Akron and Indiana State. Richmond participated in the CBI in 2008 and 2009.

Monday night is such a match up of what is to come. Davidson visits Creighton (tip off 8 PM ET on HDNet). Both are teams led by underclassmen. Davidson features 6’10 sophomore Jake Cohen and 6’4 sophomore J.P. Kuhlman, a terrific outside-inside young tandem. Creighton is led by 6’7 freshman Doug McDermott, the first rookie to make first team All-Missouri Valley Conference since 1952.

These are prototypes of what the CBI committee looks for each year. Teams that are successful(Davidson has won 10 of their last 12 and Creighton is 20-14) and most important, getting better. They feature players, as did Morehead State last season with Kenneth Faried, who are stars in the making. Basketball junkies, those that follow the recruiting classes like a religious cult probably know this, but the average fan who catches some box scores, an occasional highlight, probably doesn’t until the CBI each year.

It is a tournament filled with the so called mid-major conferences like Southern Conference Davidson and Missouri Valley Conference Creighton. But in this age where there are so many talented players scattered around the country, where Butler, Gonzaga and San Diego State have risen in the ranks in the last decade, who can really overlook the possibilities in March?

The College Basketball Invitational, now in its fourth season, has once again assembled a field to take notice of over these next two weeks. And especially is you are already tearing up your NCAA sheet this year and thinking about those upset specials for 2012.

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