How to Bet the CBI Final: Finding the Edge in the Best of 3 Series

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© Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

What better way to follow up the Duke-Kansas overtime win-or-go-home thriller with the start of the best-of-three CBI championship between the Dons of San Francisco and the Mean Green of North Texas?

At least we have basketball to watch and bet on tonight. (And all week … don’t forget about the NIT and CIT.) Enjoy it while it lasts! Plus, these lower-tier tournaments can really go a long way for certain teams in the future. Just look at recent CBI champions in Loyola-Chicago (2015) and Nevada (2016), who just faced off in the Sweet 16.

The 2018 CBI championship series will tip off Monday at 10 p.m. ET, as San Francisco hosts North Texas (+3.5) in Game 1 of the three-game series. Games 2 (Wednesday) and 3 (Friday, if necessary) will be held at the Super Pit in Denton, Texas. Here’s what to look for in the title series.

San Francisco Team Fingerprint

San Francisco coach Kyle Smith obviously values these lesser tournaments, as he won the 2016 CIT tournament while at Columbia. This year, he has a deep and versatile USF team that revolves around point guard Frankie Ferrari, who has become one of mid-majordom’s more unheralded distributors, compiling the nation’s 40th-highest assist rate in Smith’s motion offense. Ferrari is flanked by penetrator Souley Boum at the off guard, sharpshooting wings Chase Foster and Jordan Ratinho, point-forward Nate Renfro and reliable big man Matt McCarthy. The Dons aren’t an explosive offense, but Smith’s team has well-defined roles, with a point guard in Ferrari that is as steady as you will find at the mid-major level.

Ultimately, USF has advanced to the CBI title series thanks to its defense. Only Utah Valley has crossed the 1-point-per-possession threshold against the Dons in this tournament. Smith’s defense is predicated on its ability to switch 1-4 on screens. The Dons aggressively chase jump shooters off the 3-point line, allowing the nation’s 17th-lowest 3-point attempt rate. They aren’t particularly stout at the rim defensively, but Smith will pressure ballhandlers in the half court to compensate, making it difficult for teams to get into their half-court sets. Boum is a liability defensively who can be attacked off the dribble. As a result, Smith likes to substitute offense for defense with him in half-court-dominated games.

North Texas Team Fingerprint

Coach Grant McCasland has done a phenomenal job in his first season in Denton. He has almost completely turned around a moribund program, making himself a potential hot coaching prospect for a higher-profile job in a year or two. The Mean Green have absolutely been on fire offensively in this tournament, scoring 1.21 points per possession (ppp) in three games, thanks to hitting a ridiculous 40-of-83 from 3-point range.

Interestingly, McCasland has completely shifted his offensive scheme in this tournament with big man Shane Temara injured. He has switched to a 4 out offense, with rarely used reserve guard Michael Miller replacing wing AJ Lawson. Prior to this tournament, Miller hadn’t played more than 20 minutes in a game all season. However, he has played an average of 28 minutes per game in UNT’s three CBI games, almost three times his season average. His shooting ability has completely shifted UNT from a rim-attacking offense into a volume 3-point shooting team with him and gunner Roosevelt Smart (28.3 ppg in the tourney).

The Matchup

With McCasland’s shift to a 4 out, 3-point heavy attack, the Mean Green actually play into the strength of USF’s defense on the perimeter. On paper, this new alignment does make UNT even weaker at the rim, where it was already vulnerable. (The Mean Green allow the ninth-highest FG% at the rim in the country.)

However, given how much confidence UNT is playing with, its defense has actually improved overall after Lawson’s benching. It held high-powered offenses in South Dakota and Mercer to sub-1-ppp performances in this tournament. This team is simply on a mission. Given how well the offense is playing and how inspired the defense looks, we could very well be looking at the first CBI sweep since Loyola-Chicago swept UL Monroe three years ago.

Game 1 Pick

North Texas +3.5


North Texas guard Ryan Woolridge pictured above; photo credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

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