Spring football practice may have started, but that's not what's really important. What's important is this: the Oregon Ducks are the 2011 CBI Tournament Champions. Why is this important? Besides the obvious reasons - our young team got six extra games and three weeks of practice experience, Joevan Catron and Jay-R Strowbridge got to go out on a high note, and SUCK IT BOISE STATE - you have to look no further than the 2010 CBI Champion: VCU. Head Coach Shaka Smart led the Rams to the CBI title in his first season, and a magical run to the Final Four in his second. Dana Altman, the ball is in your court. /pun'd.
Is Final Four immortality the destination for all CBI champs? Tulsa, winners of the inaugural tournament in 2008, made two consecutive NIT tourneys before missing the postseason this year. Our rodent friends to the north won the 2009 contest, lost in the first round of their bid to repeat as CBI champs in 2010, and finished this season with a record of 11-20. Does this prove anything? No. Was this merely a way of saying the Beavers were terrible at basketball this year? Yes.
But did VCU's CBI tournament run in 2010 helped them to their 2011 NCAA tournament success? Find out after the jump.
Probably a little.
The biggest factor is the players. The 2011 VCU team was filled with senior leaders, most notably point guard Joey Rodriguez and forwards Bradford Burgess and Jamie Skeen. The core of their Final Four team played a big role in the CBI championship, and it showed in their composure and ability to withstand second-half runs from teams like Georgetown and Kansas. The team that eventually knocked them off, Butler, was the only team with MORE tournament experience, having come within inches of winning the NCAA tournament in 2010.
As a first year coach, winning the 2010 CBI probably helped Rams coach Shaka Smart a great deal. Tournament basketball is difficult to gameplan; facing an unfamiliar opponent with fairly little time to prepare is, presumably, something that takes experience to master. Do Smart and the Rams win three games in five days without that experience? Luckily for the Ducks, Dana Altman is already a tournament pro. This year's CBI run merely adds to his postseason success.
With Jabari Brown and the rest of an incredibly talented recruiting class joining EJ and the gang next year, the Ducks have an outside chance of making the Big Dance. If they get there, it'll be up to the veterans to draw on their 2010 success and turn it into
money for Takimoto in his 2012 NCAA pools a long tournament run. And even if the Ducks fall short of that lofty goal, the 2011 CBI championship was still a great learning experience for our team.