Penn State men’s basketball: Nittany Lions eyeing NIT or CBI tournament berths

rgery@centredaily.comMarch 12, 2014 

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Penn State basketball coach Patrick Chambers cheers during the Saturday, February 15, 2014 game against Iowa at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Hawkeyes won, 82-70.

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— Penn State coach Patrick Chambers thinks his team should be playing in a postseason tournament next week regardless of how the Nittany Lions perform in the Big Ten tournament.

“I want to play postseason,” Chambers said Tuesday, “whether it’s NIT or CBI or you never know, the NCAA tournament, so I want to play in postseason. This team has earned the right to play in postseason. They have.

“We’ve had some bad bounces, some bad luck, some crazy things have happened this year that I’ve never seen. They deserve to play in postseason.”

The Nittany Lions can earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament if they win the Big Ten tournament. Penn State (15-16, 6-12) opens the conference tournament as the No. 10 seed Thursday at 6:30 p.m. against seventh-seeded Minnesota (19-12, 8-10) in Indianapolis.

The National Invitation Tournament, gives automatic bids to “any regular-season champion of an NCAA Division I conference” that isn’t going to the NCAA tournament. The rest of the 32-team field includes the best available teams. The NIT has never included a team with a losing record.

The CBI, or College Basketball Invitational, is a 16-team tournament put together since 2008 by The Gazelle Group, a sports marketing firm based in Princeton, N.J. It is a single-elimination tournament that ends in a best-of-three Championship Series.

Purdue was the first Big Ten team to play in the CBI last season. The Boilermakers went into the tournament with a 15-17 record and lost to eventual champion Santa Clara in the quarterfinals. This season’s field will be announced Sunday.

“Teams are invited based upon performance during their conference and non-conference schedules, as well as how well the team is playing at the end of the regular season,” according to the CBI website.

Chambers made his case for a postseason berth despite finishing the regular season with a losing record.

The coach said his team could have finished with a winning record, listing seven losses that could have gone Penn State’s way.

“We’re right there,” Chambers said. “We easily could be at 19 wins right now. Easily. I could probably name them all too, but we could easily be right there.”

Instead, the Nittany Lions head to Indianapolis looking to bolster their postseason chances.

“We got to clean it up this weekend hopefully,” Chambers said. “And if not, we got to prepare for next year that way.”

Newbill misses out on all-Big Ten first team: Penn State guard D.J. Newbill finished second in the Big Ten in scoring with 17.8 points per game.

He carried the Nittany Lions’ offense throughout the season, proving to be one of the conference’s best players. Chambers thought he deserved a spot on the all-Big Ten first team.

But when the Big Ten announced its awards Monday, Newbill had to settle for second-team honors from the coaches and media, something Chambers attributed to Penn State’s 10th-place finish in the conference.

“I blame myself for not having more wins for him,” Chambers said. “I definitely could have done some things as you look back and change some outcomes. It’s unfortunate, but as coaches, that’s what we do. We second-guess ourselves.”

Michigan’s Nik Stauskas, the conference Player of the Year, Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble, Michigan State’s Gary Harris, Nebraska’s Terran Petteway and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky made up the first team.

If Penn State finished higher in the standings, Chambers said Newbill would have been included in that group.

“If we have eight wins and we’re in the middle of the pack and we’re 8-10, I think he’s first team,” Chambers said, “I think he deserved it.”

Follow Ryne Gery on Twitter @rgery

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