BEAVER GAMEDAY... bumped back to the top.
First it was Houston of Conference USA, now it's the Vermont Catamounts of the American East Conference who the Beavers will meet up with in the College Basketball Invitational.
The Beavers, a year removed from going 0-18 in the Pac-10 conference, have reached the Elite Eight of the CBI.... it's not the Big Dance, but this is a good stepping stone, no?
To advance to the exclusive CBI Final Four, the Beavers must first get by a "little-known but tough team that mediocre schools in the power conferences hate to play" (GB P-G)
Oregon State's road to the CBI Final Four
The Catamounts didn't win their conference tournament-- they lost to seventh-seeded Albany by four in overtime of a first round American East game-- but many felt they should have, including Albany's head coach.
"I said going into our conference tournament Vermont was the best team," Albany coach Will Brown said. "And I still feel that way."
For more on Blakely, we'll turn it over to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, who covered the first round CBI game between Vermont and Green Bay last week:
Vermont's offense, and team as a whole, starts with Blakely (6-5, 225), a junior forward who was the league's player of the year and defensive player of the year the past two seasons. He's an explosive athlete who averages 15.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots per game.
Blakely probably isn't an NBA prospect because he lacks the shooting skills he'd need at that height - he attempted only three 3-pointers this season. But he finishes fast breaks with highlight dunks and uses his strength and explosiveness to get easy baskets in the post - he led the conference in field-goal shooting at 59.9 percent.
Blakely's weakness is free-throw shooting (56.1 percent), which cost Vermont when he went 10-for-19 in the tournament loss to Albany.
In Vermont's first round CBI win over Green Bay, the Catamouts were led by junior guard Maurice Joseph, who scored 23 points off the bench. Blakely scored 22 points on 11-of-15 shooting, collecting 11 rebounds and blocking three shots along the way.
Blakely is now the two-time American East Conference Player of the Year as well as Defensive Player of the Year.
"Blakely is an undersized, freakish athletic kid inside," said Colorado State assistant Mark Amaral, whose team beat Vermont 82-76 in December. "He blocked shots, he just made plays. I'm not surprised he was defensive player of the year. He might be only 6-5, 6-6, but he's just a super athlete."
Blakely might be the best player on the court on Monday night, but Coach Robinson feels that the Beavers will for once have more athleticism than their opponents.
Back to the GB P-T:
Vermont surrounds him with a veteran backcourt duo of senior Mike Trimboli (16.0 points, 4.8 assists) and junior Nick Vier (6.7 points, 2.9 assists), plus 6-8 forward Colin McIntosh (13.2 points), whose mid-range game feeds off Blakely's unselfish play from the post. Trimboli is a four-year starter and first-team all-conference player who is a capable outside threat (36.1 percent on 3-pointers) and complete player.
"They look to push the ball if they can," said Jean Bain, an assistant coach for New Hampshire, another of Vermont's conference rivals. "But if they can't, they're real organized, disciplined, run their offense to a 'T.' They get the ball in their best players' hands, usually try to get the ball inside to Blakely or Trimboli on a drive. Very well coached, disciplined kind of team."
Oregon State is one of eight teams remaining in the CBI, with a victory over Vermont putting the Beavers in the 'Final Four'. Stanford also remains in the tournament, and two victories by both the Cardinal and the Beavers would produce an all-Pac-10 battle for the CBI crown.
Tipoff is scheduled for Monday at 7:00 at Gill Coliseum, and the game will be televised on HDnet.