By Trot Nixon’s Hat
Welcome to the first pre-season tournament preview done by Trot Nixon’s Hat. Here is what we’ve got coming up this week in NCAA Hoops:
The CBE Classic
Tonight, at 7:45 p.m. ET, we’ve got the Third Place match between Maryland and Missouri. Maryland put up a fight against UCLA last night, but their lack of an experienced point guard makes this upcoming match against Missouri look daunting. After Mizzou’s showing against MSU last night, look for them to come out and take it to Maryland.
The CBE Title game, between UCLA and Michigan State at 10 p.m. ET should be a barn burner. MSU will have a shot due to the backcourt injuries that have plagued UCLA, but the overall talent level of the Bruins should win out in the end. If the Spartans can slow the pace to a Big Ten-style crawl, then this could have upset written all over it, but look for the Bruins to run MSU into the ground.
Come see the rest of this week’s extravaganza after the break.
The Maui Invitational
Everyone’s favorite small-gym tournament got underway last night, and continues today with semifinal matchups between Marquette and Oklahoma State (7 ET) and Duke and Illinois (9:30 ET).
Marquette has looked shaky and completely undeserving of their early season ranking (11 AP, 13 Coaches), struggling against D-II Chaminade in their opening Maui game. Following a narrow escape over IUPUI, the Golden Eagles should be taken care of quite handily by Oklahoma State tonight. Look for Marquette to start putting the pieces together in December, but, if not, this could be a shaky year in the Big East.
Both Illinois and Duke ended their opening round games with first half knockout blows – Illinois with torrid shooting and excellent defense, Duke with passing that made them look to be in midseason form. Illinois will look to run the Blue Devils, but this year’s Duke team is built for speed. This one could stay close, but the talent at Duke should allow them to ease away towards the end, setting up a Wednesday night matchup against OSU for the title.
The top of this bracket is simply weak – Marquette hasn’t made an appearance yet, so look forward to crowning Duke the Maui invite champs for the fourth time.
The grand-daddy of pre-season tourneys. While not the oldest, this one brings a ton of schools from all over the country together each year. Wednesday night treats us to the semifinals between THE Syracuse Orangemen and Ohio State and a contest between Washington and Texas A&M. Both matchups give us an early look at four teams that could do some damage come March.
Both ‘Cuse and the Buckeyes have not looked sharp out of the gate – while they’ve won, they haven’t blown away clearly inferior competition. This will be a real test, and gives us a very early look at the Orangemen playing outside of northern New York State. Look for a battle as the Greg Oden-less Buckeyes try to knock off the No. 21 team in the land.
Washington and Texas A&M (No. 16 AP, No. 15 Coaches) in the 2nd semifinal promises to be a good one. Washington is looking to join the ranks of the rest of the PAC 10 as legitimate March threats, while Texas A&M looks to pick up a defense that allowed UTEP to shoot nearly 50% in their 2nd round matchup.
The Legends Classic
Well, the meaningless round-robin stage of this one is over and done with, and we’ve got our four teams: New Mexico State, West Virginia, Tennessee (7 AP+Coaches), and Texas (15 AP, 16 Coaches).
Can the Mountaineers take down Tennessee on Friday? All signs point to no, as this Tennessee team finally has the talent that could take them all the way. On the other hand, this could just be a repeat of most Tennessee seasons – highly rated followed by a finish in the bottom half of the SEC. Still, the Vols should move on to Newark and the title game against the winner of:
Texas and New Mexico State! I know nothing about either team, I hate to say, but Texas should emerge as the winner here. None of the above four teams have played a meaningful game, so Friday’s Semifinal games look to be the real tip-offs for all four teams.
Come back in a few hours for the update, which will feature the three tournaments that have yet to begin: The Great Alaska Shootout, The Anaheim Classic, and the Old Spice Classic.