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ACC/Big Ten Challenge Recap

Posted by Zach on December 4, 2008

Duke Purdue Basketball

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge has always been dominated by the ACC, winning all nine of the hyped events heading into this year’s clash. I went through the games with popular commenter Brian Sunday night and we determined the Big Ten had a chance to finally come out on top if they held at home and sprung a mildly surprising upset on the road. At the very least, the Big Ten could keep us entertained until the final night.

Turns out they received the stunning upset when Miami was unable to exact revenge from the 2003 Fiesta Bowl on Tuesday night, but were ultimately hurt by Purdue not showing up against Duke and Illinois failing to take care of business on their own floor against Clemson. In the end, the ACC once again touted their superiority over the Big Ten. But hey, don’t get too down, you midwestern diehards. Next year should be your best chance ever with Purdue returning all five starters, Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio State drastically improving, and the Spartans full of talent as always.

Here’s a recap of each game in the event and some extra thoughts, as well:

#22 Wisconsin 74, Virginia Tech 72: The Badgers have two chances to pick up quality road wins this week, the first being in Blacksburg on Monday night and then on Saturday against in-state rival Marquette in Milwaukee. They nearly blew a comfortable lead with under five minutes to play in this game, mostly due to the coming out party of Tech’s A.D. Vassallo, whose 30 points and 6 threes made up for the non-existent Jeff Allen, banished by foul trouble. Vassallo’s triple with 8 seconds to play tied the game at 72 before Hughes calmly dribbled slowly up the floor and threw up a leaner in the face of about three Hokies to give Wisconsin the advantage with 0.8 seconds remaining. Jason Bohannon hit a few huge treys in the second half and sophomore Jon Leuer helped out with 17/6 off the pine. Virginia Tech is hurting their bubble chances with losses to Xavier, Seton Hall and Wisconsin, but I still feel like they’ll be involved in March, meaning it’s a nice road victory for Bo Ryan. They’ll try to reel in an even bigger fish on Saturday.

Boston College 57, Iowa 55: Poor Andrew Brommer. With a chance to send the Hawkeyes into overtime on the road against Boston College following a bonehead Corey Raji foul, Brommer barely scrapped the front rim on the first of a 1-and-1, sending Iowa home in defeat. BC is now 3-0 all-time in the Challenge, the only undefeated team other than 10-0 Duke. They nearly blew an 11-point lead (56-45) in the contest with Tyrese Rice making just three field goals amidst another game mired in foul trouble. The Eagles weren’t supposed to be an outstanding outside shooting team anyway, but only two in this contest has to be troublesome for Al Skinner. BC looks like they’re headed to the NIT while Iowa and coach Todd Lickliter continue their massive rebuilding project, likely not resulting in a postseason spot this season.

Iowa Boston College Basketball

#4 Duke 76, #10 Purdue 60: The biggest game in Mackey Arena history. Purdue diehards sleeping outside in tents on Monday night in anticipation of the hugest Purdue home basketball game since the 90’s. Then Duke showed up, the students shut up, and the Blue Devils marched out of West Lafayette with a convincing and super-impressive 16 point victory in their first true road contest of the season against a top-15 team. Kyle Singler was once again phenomenal, leading the way with 20/12 while Jon Scheyer chipped in with his usually smooth stroke from outside and the charity stripe, totaling 20 points, as well. From the tip, Duke charged out to a 7-0 lead and quieted the packed crowd, pretty much controlling the game the entire way. Purdue missed numerous easy layups and the Blue Devils looked like the stronger defensive team Tuesday night. Matt Painter needed big performances from E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel and he got neither. Duke looks like they could be on their way to a #1 seed and a Final Four, but we’ve said this before recently.

Ohio State 73, #23 Miami (FL) 68– Probably the most surprising result of the entire Challenge. The Buckeyes can thank Jack McClinton for losing his cool in picking up a very important road win for a young Ohio State team. McClinton became frustrated with Ohio State point guard Anthony Crater’s close-knit defense, resulting in a face brushing from the All-ACC guard that prompted an immediate ejection. McClinton was 4-4 from three and Miami was cruising to an easy home victory when this occured, and the Canes still led by 14 early in the second half. Miami guards Lance Hurdle, James Dews and Brian Asbury (they were also without guard Eddie Rios, who was suspended indefinitely pregame) went 2-17 from deep and turned the ball over 10 times against a suffocating pressure defense from the Buckeyes, ultimately losing their comfortable led when Jon Diebler put up a career high 20 points on six triples and Evan Turner chipped in with 19 of his own. Credit Thad Matta for keeping his team motivated. They put up a remarkable 51 second half points and could be flying under the radar here in early December.

Clemson 76, Illinois 74: Champaign, Illinois is not an easy place to win, especially facing an unblemished Illini team brimming with confidence. Coach Oliver Purnell and the Tigers won with a balanced scoring attack: Rivers (14), Sykes (14), Stitt (18), Booker (16) and forced 17 turnovers with a full-court press that baffled the Illinois guards. They shot an impresive 58% on the road and quietly improve to 8-0 on the season. Illinois played extremely well in the first half, but cooled down in the second shooting-wise. Bruce Weber received solid games from forward Mike Davis (28/8) and sweet shooter Demetri McCamey (20 on 4 triples). Outstanding road win for Clemson, especially if Illinois can sneak into the NCAA Tournament.

Minnesota 66, Virginia 56: Tubby Smith and the Gophers stayed undefeated, lucking out and drawing the weakest ACC team in the conference in Virginia. The Cavaliers turned the ball over 19 times resulting in 20 Minnesota points and their top scorer at 20.8 PPG, freshman Sylven Landesberg, shot just 1/11 from the field for 10 points. Another freshman starred for Minnesota- 6’10 center Colton Iverson’s 14 points and 7 rebounds coupled with 12 from Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen’s five steals were enough to pace an expected victory. Minnesota is now 7-0 and looks like a potential bubble team.

#1 North Carolina 98, Michigan State 63: Okay, the question is no longer: Is North Carolina the clear cut #1 team in the nation? It’s no longer: Can North Carolina stay at #1 the entire season? It’s no longer: Can North Carolina go undefeated? The question is: Is this North Carolina team one of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time? I know, I know…it’s totally premature to be throwing out questions like that in early December after only eight games. But how can you not be impressed completely blown away, jaw-on-the-floor, utterly amazed? This team is so loaded that the word loaded fails to do any justice. The Tar Heels have now dismantled two top-15 opponents in Notre Dame and Michigan State, their average margin of victory this year is somewhere around 35 PPG, they put up nearly 100 points or more in every contest…thus far for Roy Williams, it’s been a cakewalk. This was the game everyone pointed to before the season and said the Heels could slip up. They won by 35. Tyler Hansbrough looks healthy (25/11, 13/13 FT), Ty Lawson had another incredibly efficient game (17 points, 6/11 FG, 2/3 3pt, 8 asst, 7 stl, 0 TO) and the Tar Heels ran away with the game near the midway point of the first half, never looking back and establishing themselves as, potentially, historically dominant.

Michigan Maryland Basketball

Maryland 75, Michigan 70: Solid win for the Terps on their home floor against an upstart Michigan team that only received 15 points from their sophomore star Manny Harris. These are two teams who will likely have their fair share of great wins and stunning losses (Michigan has another chance with Duke at home Saturday), and this type of victory could be the difference for a Maryland team likely sitting on the bubble come March. Greivis Vasquez was sensational- 23 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists- while Maryland somehow out-rebounded Michigan 43-26 in the contest. Anthony Wright, DeShawn Sims and Zack Gibson only contributed 10 total rebounds. They’ll need to hit the glass more to win these types of road games. Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne and Dave Neal also reached double digits in scoring for the Terrapins.

Penn State 85, Georgia Tech 83: Could be a rough season for both of these teams, although Penn State has the potential to turn some heads in the Big Ten. Scoring tandem Stanley Pringle and Talor Battle combined for 40 points and the Nittany Lions simply outplayed Georgia Tech in Atlanta for a notch on the Big Ten belt, surviving despicable free throw shooting in the final minute. It’s official: Paul Hewitt is on the hot seat. Luckily for him, he has two outstanding playmakers in Iman Shumpert (14/12 asst) and lottery pick Gani Lawal, who exploded for 34 points on 15/20 FG and 10 rebounds, likely receiving the Horse Trailer if Tyler Smith didn’t notch the first triple-double in Tennessee history.

#17 Wake Forest 83, Indiana 58: This one actually could have been a lot uglier than the final result. The talent disparity on the floor in this game was simply unfair, clearly noticeable every instance James Johnson or L.D. Williams decided to jump over a Hoosier player for an easy dunk. Wake didn’t totally demolish Indiana due to a lack of three-point shooting (5/11) and sloppy play (22 TO), two negatives in the Deacons game that may ultimately lead to their demise. The athleticism and inside play is absurdly good, though. They shot 62% overall with James Johnson totalling 21, Al-Farouq Aminu 13 and L.D. Williams 16 in the contest. Tom Crean had his team playing very hard, only losing 33-30 in terms of rebounds. Wake Forest improves to 7-0 on the campaign while Indiana falls to 4-3.

Northwestern 73, Florida State 59: Just when you think Leonard Hamilton and the Seminoles are finally hitting their stride and setting up for a tremendous season, they play a stinker like this one Wednesday night in Evanston. Florida State had 22 turnovers and went scoreless for nearly four minutes during a 20-2 Northwestern run that paced the victory. The Wildcats 1-3-1 zone baffled the Florida State offense in the second half of this one, namely freshman Chris Singleton (5 points). Toney Douglas was great once again (7/16 FG, 3/8 3pt, 21 pts) as Florida State drops to 7-1 on the season and look like an NIT team at best despite the impressive record.

Great doubleheader on ESPN tonight with USC-Oklahoma and UCLA-Texas. Enjoy everyone.

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The Day After: Old Spice Classic Recap (Day 1)

Posted by Zach on November 28, 2008

Maryland Michigan St Basketball

LIVE from Orlando! (actually my living room, but we can pretend)

What did we learn from Day One of the Old Spice Classic? Tennessee is for real, Georgetown can’t shoot, Maryland and Oklahoma State could be in the hunt for a bid after all, Purdue may be the class of the Big Ten rather than Michigan State, Wichita State is no walkover and Gonzaga may be slightly overrated.

Here are my recaps/analysis:

#12 Tennessee 78, Siena 64
: I expected the first game of the Old Spice Classic between Tennessee and Siena to be competitive with the veteran and tournament tested Saints giving the younger Vols all they could handle. I definitely underestimated the size, strength and athleticism of a Tennessee team that used returnees like Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism and Brian Williams and additions like impressive point guard Bobby Maze, Renaldo Woolridge (who is a great addition because his shooting can extend the floor and create more room for Smith and Chism to operate) and Scotty Hopson to dominate the mid-major Siena. This was a great test for the Saints, whom I still feel will come away with two wins in this tournament and contend for an undefeated season in the MAAC. They won’t play a team as athletic and talented as Tennessee the rest of the way. The Vols forced Siena into taking mid-range jumpers instead of the dribble-drive penetration to the hoop that made Siena so successful at the end of the last season. Taking Kenny Hansbrouck out of his game (1-10 FG, 6 points) and containing both Franklin and Ubiles from starting a run was huge for Tennessee. Worth noting that Ryan Rossiter held his own with 12 and 12 down low for the Saints.

#16 Georgetown 58, Wichita State 50
: Georgetown was very unimpressive in their squeaker over Wichita State in the second game of the Old Spice Classic. They allowed Wichita State to hang around most of the first half, the Shockers actually cut the lead to one in the second, then Georgetown secured a close win by hunkering down defensively and DaJuan Summers finally coming out of his shell to hit some clutch threes. Wichita State is a very young team predicted to finish near the bottom of the MVC, but we may have to re-evaluate that standing. Gregg Marshall is a very good coach and he successfully confused Georgetown offensively mixing up the zone and man-to-man, often causing the Hoyas empty possessions by swinging the ball around the perimeter and eventually either turning it over or throwing up a poor shot. In the end though, the Shockers just didn’t have talent to match Georgetown, who may be worse in the Big East than projected. They play stout defense like you’d expect a JTIII team to do, but their offense is stagnant, they’re a poor outside shooting team, and don’t really have any dominant force to rely on. Monroe is efficient in the post, runs the floor like a gazelle and has a smooth stroke at the foul line, but he’s more of a secondary player on a second weekend tournament team. I know it’s one game, but with a loaded Big East, the Hoyas could find themselves near the bubble. They could change that tomorrow by upsetting Tennessee.

Maryland 80, #6 Michigan State 62
: Wow. What a tremendous win for the Terps and Gary Williams, the kind of win that gets you into the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday as opposed to barely missing the cut. Maryland completely outplayed Michigan State in the fashion you’d expect an underdog Gary Williams team to do. Thanks to Goran Suton and his injured knee, Maryland’s weak frontline actually out-rebounded Michigan State during this game, shot 47% from three and received a great performance from throwback Dave Neal, the lone senior on the squad. The real difference came at the foul line, where the Spartans shot just 44% at 12/27 while Maryland shot at 81%. Another key was Raymar Morgan entrenched in foul trouble the entire game, only managing four shots and scoring four points, with coach Tom Izzo visibly frustrated with his inconsistent play. Vasquez, Hayes, Mosley and Bowie were all great for a Maryland team that really put it together last night. Could they make a run through this tournament like they did in the ACC Tournament a few years ago?

#10 Gonzaga 83, Oklahoma State 71:
The Zags avoided the upset bug and pulled out a hard-fought victory from an Oklahoma State team that could be dangerous in the Big 12 this season. They’ve got incredible athletes in Eaton, Harris, Anderson and Muonelo, can shoot the ball very well from deep, and constantly push the tempo in Travis Ford’s offense, looking to wear the opposition down late in the second half. And that may work on a few occasions in the Big 12, but having absolutely zero post presence may mean NIT rather than NCAA. Overall, I was impressed by the Cowboys effort last night, especially super sophomore James Anderson, and they should give Michigan State a run for their money. As for Gonzaga, I thought the key play in the game was Ira Brown snagging an offensive rebound and drawing Anderson’s fourth foul about midway through the second half. Brown gave them great energy off the pine and may take all of Sacre’s minutes sooner than later. Daye showed a nice stroke from the outside, Downs contributed with 12 rebounds and Pargo provided senior leadership and clutch shots in crunch time. The only Achilles heel I can see for Gonzaga is their ability to stop people on defense and it may ultimately lead to their downfall. Matt Bouldin I also thought was very shaky; they need him as their fourth weapon behind Pargo, Heytvelt and Daye.

Anaheim Classic First Round

  • UTEP dominated St. Mary’s 75-62 behind 20 points from Randy Culpepper who completely outplayed Patty Mills
  • #24 Wake Forest edged a competitive Cal State Fullerton squad 75-69 with Jeff Teague notching 24 points
  • #14 Arizona State dominated Charlotte in the second half to win 84-56 with Jeff Pendergraph scoring 23 and grabbing 10 boards
  • Baylor took care of Providence with ease- 72-56- leading from the very tip and will play Arizona State in a great 2nd round game

NW Wins Horse Trailer of the Day: Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State

Day Two analysis from two games- Georgetown vs. Tennessee and Gonzaga vs. Maryland (possibly Michigan State vs. Oklahoma State depending on if I’m still home)- coming tomorrow.

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Top Games Of The Week (November 24-30) Tournament Edition

Posted by Zach on November 23, 2008

Ah, the best week of the non-conference schedule is finally upon us. This slate of Thanksgiving week games is quite possibly the most intriguing and competitive we’ve ever had. The tournaments in Orlando, Maui, Anaheim, Kansas City, Virgin Islands, New Jersey, Vegas and New York are all highlighted by top-25 matchups and historic programs. This week, settle down with some turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, and enjoy some outstanding holiday hoops.

Maui Invitational– Normally this tournament provides the top November games, and even though the honor goes to the Old Spice this time around, Maui certainly does not disappoint. North Carolina should cruise to their final past the likes of Chaminade, Oregon and Alabama. On the other side of the bracket, Texas will likely face Notre Dame in a captivating semifinal between two top-10 caliber teams. And it only gets more difficult in the final with the Tar Heels on the way. Some players to look out for: Alabama freshman JaMychal Green, Texas forward Damion James, and whether Tyler Hansbrough is close to 100%. He’ll need to be healthy in case a battle with Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody waits. Predicted winner: North Carolina over Notre Dame

Old Spice Classic– Even the first round matchups in this tournament are phenomenal: Tennessee taking on experienced and upset-minded Siena, Wichita State battling Georgetown, Maryland facing Michigan State, and explosive Oklahoma State taking on Gonzaga. This sets up a possible final four of Tennessee, Georgetown, Michigan State and Gonzaga. If you can find a better preseason tournament, please let me know. Keep an eye on whether Bobby Maze can control tempo for Tennessee at the point, if Gonzaga shows why they’re a Final Four contender or if Raymar Morgan has a huge tournament for the Spartans. Predicted winner: Gonzaga over Tennessee

NIT Season Tip-Off– The semifinal matchups at the Garden are BC-Purdue and UAB-Oklahoma, which most likely sets up a very fun final between the Boilermakers and Sooners if they can contain Tyrese Rice (who struggled badly against Saint Louis in a loss) and Robert Vaden (who led the Blazers to an underrated win at Old Dominion), respectively. It’ll be interesting to see how Purdue and coach Matt Painter’s always reliable defense attempts to contain the likes of Griffin inside and Crocker and Warren behind the arc. BC and UAB are both possible bubble teams looking to build their resume while Purdue and Oklahoma can snatch up some quality wins. Predicted winner: Oklahoma over Purdue

Legends Classic- This four-team tournament doesn’t have quite the November matchup that Tennessee vs. Texas provided last year, but there’s still reason to tune in. The first semifinal pits two defensive-minded teams in Washington State vs. Mississippi State, giving us a look at freshman Klay Thompson and shot-blocker extraordinaire Jarvis Varnado. High-scoring Texas Tech and Pat Knight take on Pittsburgh, who happens to be playing great basketball led by a healthy Levance Fields, in the other semi. Once again, you have a team like Pitt trying to build their March resume with the other three squads looking to sneak into the NCAA Tournament and pick up some quality wins early. Predicted winner: Pittsburgh over Washington State

CBE Classic– It seems like we can’t fully gauge how good the four teams in the CBE Classic will be this season, and this tournament should provide an early barometer on whether Florida, Syracuse, Kansas and Washington are contenders or pretenders. Florida has been playing outstanding basketball this season led by all-around guard Nick Calathes. The determining factor in their game against Syracuse could be if anyone on Florida can contain Arinze Onuaku in the paint. The revamped Kansas Jayhawks will be playing on a national stage for the first time, facing a Washington team looking to shake off some early season disappointment. Predicted winner: Syracuse over Kansas

Paradise Jam- Two excellent games Monday night in the Virgin Islands with the consolation game pitting Miami vs. San Diego and the championship spelling Wisconsin vs. Connecticut. Jack McClinton exploded in a one-man offense vs. Connecticut and will look to carry it over against scoring guard Brandon Johnson and a solid mid-major Torero squad. In the championship, Wisconsin’s solid defense will look to confuse the athletic and explosive Connecticut offense. Who performs better in the Trevon Hughes vs. A.J. Price matchup could determine the winner. Also, who will contain Hasheem Thabeet down low? Prediction: Connecticut 66, Wisconsin 58

Anaheim Classic– I absolutely love this tournament. Every single team brings something different to the table to set up quality games in both the winners and losers bracket. On Thursday, Saint Mary’s and Patrick Mills look to squash a dangerous UTEP team. Al-Farouq Aminu, James Johnson and Jeff Teague need to contain outstanding scorer Josh Akognon in the Wake-Cal State Fullerton clash. A-10 contender Charlotte, who nearly took down Clemson on Saturday, faces a tough matchup in Arizona State. To conclude Thanksgiving Day, explosive Baylor and Curtis Jerrells takes on high-scoring Providence. And that’s just the first day, folks. Games like Saint Mary’s-Wake Forest and Arizona State-Baylor in the semis give me no reason to leave the couch. Predicted winner: Baylor over Wake Forest

Cancun Challenge- Four teams will travel to Cancun for some decent games: Drake vs. Vanderbilt and VCU vs. New Mexico. Keep an eye on some standout players like Josh Young of Drake, A.J. Ogilvy of Vanderbilt and Eric Maynor of Virginia Commonwealth. The VCU-New Mexico game is one to watch as both could be battling for one of the last spots on Selection Sunday in two conferences that may receive multiple bids. Predicted winner: VCU over Vanderbilt

Las Vegas Invitational– The four-team tourney in Vegas fails to live up to the standard of many others on this list, but a field of Kentucky, West Virginia, Iowa and Kansas State is still worth watching. Predicted winner: West Virginia over Kentucky

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Non-Conference Tournament Predictions/Preview

Posted by Patrick on November 18, 2008

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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.

Champion: UCLA

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.

Champion: Davidson

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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.

Champion: Florida

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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

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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.

Champion: Gonzaga

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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.

Posted in Non-Conference Tournaments, Predictions | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »