Top 10 early season tournaments (cont.)
The Milk House, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Nov. 25: Texas A&M vs. Boston College (12 p.m.), Wisconsin vs. Manhattan (2), Georgia vs. Notre Dame (7), Temple vs. Cal (9)
Nov. 26: Semifinals (12 p.m./5)
Nov. 28: Finals (7 p.m.)
Why You Should Care (other than Mike Bruesewitz's carrot 'fro): The tourney may not have an elite headliner, but it has an elite collection of post players. Wisconsin's Jon Leuer, who had 24 points (and hit 4-of-5 long-range attempts) in his season-opener, is one of the country's most versatile offensive players 6-10 or taller. Temple's Lavoy Allen, who may very well guard Leuer in the title game, is a strong interior presence who anchored the nation's seventh-most efficient D last season. Georgia's Trey Thompkins could still be out with a severe high ankle sprain, but if he does play, NBA scouts would love to see him against Allen and/or Leuer. All three players are potential draft picks for 2011, but Thompkins is the only one who's already considered a solid first-rounder.
The Pick: Wisconsin over Temple. Look for Jordan Taylor, the Badgers' efficient-but-unheralded point guard, to make a few clutch plays that decide a title game whose final score is in the low 60s.
Madison Square Garden, New York City (early rounds at campus sites)
Nov. 24: Semifinals (7 p.m./9)
Nov. 26: Finals (5 p.m.)
Likely quarterfinal pairings: Villanova-George Washington; UCLA-Nevada; Wake Forest-VCU; Tennessee-Missouri State
Why You Should Care (other than that Corey Fisher scored 105 points in a different borough this summer): Is Tennessee going to be Tobias Harris' team and not -- as we had assumed -- Scotty Hopson's? Harris, a 6-8 forward who's the highest-rated recruit of the Bruce Pearl era in Knoxville, scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting in a very promising debut against Chattanooga, while Hopson shot an unfocused 5-of-14 from the field. It was just one game, but I wouldn't be surprised if Harris, by season's end, is considered the Vols' best player.
The Pick: Villanova over Tennessee. 'Nova should be widely favored to win a tourney that needed a more prominent co-headliner. Don't be stunned if VCU -- and not Wake Forest -- reaches the New York round out of the Winston-Salem regional, and then gives the Vols a serious scare at the Garden.
Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, Calif.
Nov. 25: Virginia Tech vs. Cal-State Northridge (2 p.m.), Oklahoma State vs. DePaul (4:30), Murray State vs. Stanford (9), Tulsa vs. UNLV (11:30)
Nov. 26: Semifinals (2:30 p.m./9:30)
Nov. 28: Finals (9 p.m.)
Why You Should Care (other than that the first two rounds are an opportunity to see Malcolm Delaney shred some suspect perimeter defenses): This could be an early statement that UNLV, and not BYU or San Diego State, is the best team in the Mountain West. I started the year in the BYU camp, but am more than willing to be persuaded otherwise -- and now that senior star Tre'Von Willis is guaranteed to be back for the games in Anaheim, the Rebels may very well win this tournament. They have the deepest backcourt of any team in the field, in Willis, Oscar Bellfield, Anthony Marshall and Derrick Jasper (who plays guard but defensive rebounds at a rate of an elite power forward). Willis also has an emerging co-star in junior Chace Stanback, who had a team-high 17 points in last week's opener, and is considered one of the country's better all-around defenders.
The Pick: UNLV over Virginia Tech. This should be an excellent final -- but one in which the Hokies will sorely miss senior forward J.T. Thompson's ability to defend on the wing.
UVI Sports and Fitness Center, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Nov. 19: Old Dominion vs. St. Peter's (1 p.m.), Clemson vs. Long Beach St. (3:30), Seton Hall vs. Alabama (6), Xavier vs. Iowa (9:30)
Nov. 21: Semifinals (6 p.m./8:30)
Nov. 22: Finals (8:30 p.m.)
Why You Should Care (other than that this is Debut Coach Central, with Brad Brownell, Kevin Willard and Fran McCaffery): There's a chance that Willard has reined in Jeremy Hazell, who took 31.6 percent of the Hall's shots in '09-10. Hazell had 20-plus attempts in nine games last season, but is averaging a more reasonable 13 shots per game thus far, and his field-goal percentage has risen by double-digits, to 53.8 percent. The Mikan Drill recently took a look at what it called Hazell's "improved decision-making" -- which, if it keeps up, could make the Pirates a far more dangerous, multidimensional team on offense.
The Pick: Old Dominion over Seton Hall. The Monarchs weren't able to knock off Georgetown at home in their opener, yielding a late rally and losing by three. But they're still regarded as the best defensive team in this field, not to mention the most experienced.
Carolina First Arena, Charleston, S.C.
Nov. 18: Georgetown vs. Coastal Carolina (12 p.m.), Wofford vs. USC-Upstate (2:30), N.C. State vs. East Carolina (6), George Mason vs. Charlotte (8:30)
Nov. 19: Semifinals (2:30 p.m./6)
Nov. 21: Finals (7:30 p.m.)
Why You Should Care (other than Wofford's Noah Dahlman had the country's second-best offensive rating for players using more than 24 percent of their teams' possessions last season): C.J. Leslie and Ryan Harrow may not be starting yet for N.C. State, but they're must-watch freshmen who should eventually carry the Wolfpack into the NCAA tournament. In last Friday's opener against Tennessee Tech, Leslie came off the bench to score a team-high 21 (making 7-of-11 free throws), while Harrow added 16 of his own (making 8-of-8 free throws). State may eventually move to a starting five of Harrow at the point, fellow freshman Lorenzo Brown at the two, sharpshooter Scott Wood at the three, and Leslie and senior Tracy Smith on the blocks -- at which point they'll have one of the more talented lineups in the ACC.
The Pick: Georgetown over N.C. State. Despite the Wolfpack's infusion of elite freshmen, their backcourt isn't in the same class with the Hoyas' trio of Chris Wright, Jason Clark and Austin Freeman, who engineered a late rescue in their opener at Old Dominion.
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