Penn State basketball: Chambers expects CBI to benefit Nittany Lions

Patrick Chambers understands the value of the College Basketball Invitational.

The Penn State coach took Boston University to the CBI in his first season there in 2010. The Terriers beat Oregon State and Morehead State to advance to the semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion Virginia Commonwealth.

Chambers said the extra games and practice provided a boost heading into the 2010-11 season.

“I know what people out there are saying, and I disagree with a lot of those opinions,” Chambers said. “My BU team went to the NCAA tournament the next year. It’s not a guarantee, but I think it’s very helpful.”

Chambers is hoping the experience will be helpful to Penn State. The Nittany Lions (15-17) will play Hampton (18-12) in the first round of the CBI at the Bryce Jordan Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The coach said he planned to talk to his players about his CBI experience at Boston University before practice Monday. It was his first year leading the Terriers program, and the tournament allowed him to continue to build relationships with his players, especially leading scorer John Holland.

Boston University finished that year 21-14. The Terriers won the 2011 America East tournament championship to earn an NCAA tournament bid, losing to top-seeded Kansas in the second round.

He said the CBI provides an opportunity for his Penn State players to improve as individuals and as a team. And he hopes to see that improvement lead to results in the future.

“We’re approaching this like the NCAA tournament,” Chambers said. “We’re preparing for the NCAA tournament. We’re preparing that way, that mindset of how we would do things, how we would approach things, so that’s our mindset.”

The cost of the CBI

Gazelle Group spokesman Ray Cella declined to reveal how much schools pay to host a CBI game.

“We don’t discuss it,” Cella said Monday.

The CBI is run by the Gazelle Group, which is a sports marketing firm based in Princeton, N.J.

In previous years, schools paid $35,000 to host first-round games, according to reports.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported in 2012 that the CBI had minimum ticket guarantees of $35,000 for the first round, $50,000 for the quarterfinals and $75,000 for the semifinals and best-of-three finals. Last season, the Dayton Daily News reported Wright State paid $35,000 to host its first-round game.

Chambers said the administration was on board with playing in the CBI despite the cost.

“They think that’s the only way we’re gonna get better and continue to get better,” Chambers said. “Because we’re crawling. We’re crawling. We’re just like that 1 1/2-year-old, who’s about to take his first step, and I think we’re gonna start taking steps real soon here.”

Scouting the Pirates

After more than two months of Big Ten play, Chambers admitted it will be strange to face a non-conference opponent.

He’s been caught up in conference play, specifically Minnesota after Penn State dropped its last two games to the Golden Gophers. But even as he starts to prepare for Hampton, he hasn’t been able to move past the Minnesota matchup.

“Hampton plays a very similar style of Minnesota,” Chambers said. “They’re not as big, but they’re very quick, very athletic, very fast and they want to score in the upper 70s. They play good defense. It sounds like I’m talking about Minnesota, which is a good thing.

“We just played Minnesota so we’re prepared to play against pressure and things like that. But it’ll be good to get out of the league and see where we are and see where some of these younger kids are.”

Senior forward Du’Vaughn Maxwell leads the Pirates in scoring with 15.2 points per game and rebounding with 7.5 per game. Maxwell was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and earned a spot on the all-MEAC first team. The 6-foot-7 forward led the conference in blocked shots during the regular season with 3.2 per game.

Sophomore guards Deron Powers and Brian Darden average 11.6 and 10 points per game, respectively. Hampton was second in the MEAC in scoring at 73.2 points per game.

The Pirates were also first in the conference with 7.7 steals per game.

“They’re gonna press us,” Chambers said. “They’re gonna be all over us, they’re gonna fly up and down the floor.”