This week marks the start of some of the early season basketball tournaments and meaning for the next week or so we get to see how some of the major conference teams stack up against one another. It is the time of the year when tournament resumes are constructed (see Illinois last season in Maui) and we also get to see ESPN announcers in Hawaiin print shirts calling games after going seven Bahama Mamma's deep at the bar the night before. There are four tournaments with Big Ten teams in them this week so let's take a look.
2K Sports Classic
Madison Square Garden November 21-22 ESPN2/ESPNU Bracket
There are only four teams in this tournament and, barring a fairl surprising upset, we should see a pretty entertaining Indiana v. Connecticut final. The first games in the Championship Round have the Hoosiers taking on Washington and the Huskies facing Boston College. The Eagles have been a mess this year. They were a pesky team in the ACC last year and several folks predicted them to make a leap and finish somewhere in the middle of the conference. Instead they are 1-3 with losses to Providence, UMass, and Toledo so it seems unlikely that they get past UConn. Washington is missing two forwards in Jernard Jarreau, who tore his ACL earlier this year, and Desmond Simmons, who is still recovering from off season surgery, which leaves them with an incredibly depleted front court and a substantial size disadvantage against the Hoosiers. The Huskies do have depth in the front court and if they can wreak havoc with their guards in a small lineup this could be an upset, but I think the size challenges and raw talent of Indiana wins this one.
That puts Indiana against Connecticut in the final and I think the experienced talent of the Huskies gets it done.
Projected Winner: Connecticut
Projected B1G Record: 1-1
Puerto Rico Tip Off
Coloseo Roberto Clemente Nov. 21-24 ESPN2/ESPNU Bracket
Michigan's side of the bracket is very interesting. The Wolverines face Long Beach State in the first round before getting either VCU or Florida State. LBSU is 1-3 on the season with some pretty big losses so it seems unlikely that they pose too much of a threat for Michigan. Florida State has a lot of size and is playing significantly better defense than they were last season. How VCU defends Okaro White will be the key but I think the Rams turn over the Seminole guards and pick up the win. The question then becomes whether or not Michigan can dominate the Rams the way they did in their NCAA Tournament match up last season. I think the game is closer but the Wolverines pull it out late. Georgetown seems to be the odds on favorite to emerge from the other side of the bracket and I think Joshua Smith wins this game for the Hoyas. With Mitch McGary stil banged up I think he struggles against the Georgetown front court and Smith has a huge game in the post.
Projected Winner: Georgetown
Projected B1G Record: 2-1
Coaches vs. Cancer Classic
Barclay's Center Nov. 22-23 TruTV Bracket
There isn't much to preview here as this should, and probably will, be a Michigan State domination-fest. The Spartans start with a game against Virginia Tech who started the season by losing to USC Upstate. They have played better since but this shouldn't be that big of a threat. Oklahoma should get by Seton Hall setting up a showdown between the Sooners and the Spartans in the final. OU doesn't currently have any players taller than 6' 8" recording minutes and while they do have some experience in the front court it is hard to see them out dueling Gary Harris and the rest of this experienced Michigan State team.
Projected Winner: Michigan State
Projected B1G Record: 2-0
TD Arena Nov. 21-24 ESPN2/ESPNU/ESPN3 Bracket
Nebraska faces UMass in the first round and I like the Minutemen to pull out the victory. UMass already has wins over Boston College and LSU this season and are still averaging 87.7ppg. The loss would put Big Red in the consolation bracket, more than likely against UAB (unless New Mexico falls flat on their face). The Blazers are an experienced team led by 6' 8" junior forward C.J. Washington who is leading the team in scoring and second in rebounding. I think Walter Pitchford and Shavon Shields manage to shut him down though and the Blazers have trouble finding an answer for Ray Gallegos who comes through in a tough game. I think Temple will be the Husker's opponent from the other side of the bracket (losing to Clemson and beating Georgia) and the Owls overwhelm Nebraska in that game.
Projected Winner: New Mexico
Projected B1G Record: 1-2