Thursday night brings the Semi-Finals of the 2K sports classic in which all of the regional hosts moved on to Madison Square Garden.
Semifinals: UCLA will have trouble with Michigan but should end up winning because of their overall depth and poise in pressure situations. This will also be Manny Harris’ chance to show the nation what he’s all about on a huge stage, so expect a big night from him.
Duke should blow out Southern Illinois, but then again many people thought they should have blown out Rhode Island. SIU is a good team at home, but on the road against one of the better Duke teams in the past couple of years it’ll be no easy task. I expect Duke by 15+.
Finals: UCLA vs. Duke: Wow, what a match-up in the first tournament final. I want to say that Kyle Singler and Duke will win this game because they are a better team technically, but UCLA just has more talent. Darren Collison has been unstoppable and UCLA’s big men should dominate Duke inside.
Regional Games: Certainly nothing is set in stone in terms of which teams will make the semifinals and play in New York. Arizona must beat UAB, Oklahoma plays Davidson, Boston College has to beat St. John’s, and Purdue needs to hold off Loyola. I predict that all regional hosts will advance except for Oklahoma who will lose tonight against Davidson.
Semifinals: Stephen Curry will prove to be too much for Arizona, although I expect Chase Budinger to have a big night. Arizona needs to make sure they don’t become too hung up on stopping Curry and forget about players like Lovedale and Paulhaus-Gosselin. That could lead to their demise.
Purdue will suffer their first loss of the season against Boston College in this semifinal match-up. I love what Matt Painter has done with this program and think that they are still the favorites in the Big Ten, but Tyrese Rice will dominate in this game. Much like Curry will do against Arizona, Tyrese Rice can divert attention away from his teammates and confuse the Boilermakers all night.
Finals: Boston College vs. Davidson: This will be a match-up between two of the most dynamic guards in college basketball, and while Rice is going to be a force in this game he will be no match for Curry. As we all saw last season, Curry performs on the big stage. I don’t expect anything different from him in the final.
Semifinals: I am not a fan of the fact that even in the unlikely event that there is an upset in the regional rounds, the hosts automatically move on to Kansas City. I think that for the true purity of a tournament format, winners should always advance.
Regardless, the first game will be between Florida and Syracuse. Florida has been surprising in their early games winning by very large margins, and most notably Nick Calathes is playing out of his mind. Although Syracuse is the more athletic team, they don’t play defense and Florida will take advantage of that. Florida will move on to the championship game.
The next semifinal is against Kansas and Washington. I would pick Washington in this game had they not just lost at Portland, a team that won just nine games the previous season. Kansas has the more well-rounded team and should move on with little trouble.
Finals: Florida vs. Kansas: Two programs that have won national championships in the past two seasons will go head to head in the CBE Classic final. While I like Kansas, Florida is the better team and Calathes will dominate once again. Kansas should hang close and make this a close game, but I expect the Gators to pull out a victory in the end.
Quarterfinals: In the past these quarterfinal Maui games have provided much better match-ups, but this season the top seeds look like they should get out of the first round pretty easily. Don’t expect Chaminade to upset #1 UNC like they did to Ralph Sampson’s Virginia team way back when, and Indiana won’t stand much of a chance against Notre Dame. Saint Joseph’s can give Texas trouble, but the Longhorns are without a doubt the much better team. Oregon will defeat Alabama in a mild upset.
Semifinals: The Texas and Notre Dame game should go back and forth all night with great match-ups at the guard (A.J. Abrams vs. Kyle McAlarney) and forward (Luke Harangody vs. Damion James) positions. Harangody should dominate like usual, and carry the Fighting Irish to a resume building victory.
North Carolina will dominate Oregon, and it shouldn’t even be close.
Finals: North Carolina vs. Notre Dame: This game will depend on whether on not Tyler Hansbrough is ready to play at a high level, because if he is sitting out Harangody will have free reign down low. However, I expect that Hansbrough won’t miss such an important game and North Carolina will show why they are the best team in the nation beating Notre Dame by more than ten points.
Champion: North Carolina
Quarterfinals: By far the most complete tournament from top to bottom is the Old Spice Classic being played over Thanksgiving weekend in Orlando. In the first game, Siena will play Tennessee. I think that Siena will win this game much like they did against Vanderbilt in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament. The second match-up won’t be nearly as compelling as the first, and Georgetown should roll over Wichita State. Michigan State will have a lot of trouble with an underrated Maryland team, but should get by to the next round. Finally, Gonzaga shouldn’t have any trouble at all with inconsistent Oklahoma State.
Semifinals: Siena will continue to play Cinderella and upset Georgetown the day after beating Tennessee. Georgetown isn’t nearly as good as their ranking and Siena is a very experienced and poised basketball team that will take advantage of the younger Hoyas.
Gonzaga will prove to have too much depth for Michigan State, and the inside-outside combination of Austin Daye and Jeremy Pargo can put up tremendous numbers. These two teams match up very well against each other, but I expect the Zags to continue their trend of performing well in non-conference tournaments.
Finals: Gonzaga vs. Siena: Two teams from mid-major conferences that are both looking to get back to the NCAA tournament and make plenty of noise in their brackets. I think that after two big upsets, trying to get three in a row will too big of a task for the Saints and Gonzaga will roll to victory.
Quarterfinals: St. Mary’s should have no trouble with UTEP and move on to the second round. Cal State Fullerton will be very scrappy and keep their game close, but Wake Forest will prove to be too much for the Titans. Arizona State will walk over Charlotte, and Baylor will sneak by Providence.
Semifinals: St. Mary’s is a tremendous team that will make noise in their conference this season and probably get back to the NCAA tournament, but Wake is more athletic and should run up and down the court with ease. Al Farouq-Aminu will have one of the better games in his college career scoring more than 25 points.
Arizona State may have some trouble with Baylor, but James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph are going to lead the Sun Devils to victory and on to the finals.
Finals: Arizona State vs. Wake Forest: Harden will show why he is the best player in the Pac-10 and take over in a very important game for ASU. Supporting players such as Pendergraph, Ty Abbott, and Derek Glasser will also have great games to crush the Demon Deacons hopes of winning this tournament.
Champion: Arizona State
Other Tournaments to Check Out:
Paradise Jam: Possible match-up between UConn and Wisconsin/San Diego
Legends Classic: Pittsburgh, Washington State, Texas Tech, and Mississippi State highlight this field.