Come with me past the jump for the preview of this week’s tournaments that start with Round One, and haven’t already reached the Final Four.
Welcome back to Trot Nixon’s Hat’s two part pre-season tournament preview! I know you missed me.
The Great Alaska Shootout
This is the tournament that no one east of the Pacific Time Zone even gets a sniff at seeing. Usually those morning recaps on the interenets is pretty good. This year, however, proves to be the exception: Five teams are worth seeing in this eight team tournament (Sorry Michigan, you’re not must see hoops yet): Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, and Butler all are teams to keep an eye on, some further into March than others, but this is a good smattering of games.
Michigan-Butler (No. 22 AP, No. 23 Coaches) is our opening game on Wednesday (7:30 Alaska Standard Time) and could be good, but, in the end, let’s just expect Butler to move on past Michigan (prove me wrong, Wolverines).
Eastern Washington-Virginia Tech follows the Wolverines’ early exit and should be an easy game for Virginia Tech. That being said, look for the Hokies to lose in a debacle, but return in the 2nd week of December (following a 2-2 stretch) to annihilate George Washington. This team, every year, is extremely talented, but tends to only enjoy its games against the big dogs. Maybe this is the year they finally make “the leap”.
Texas Tech facing hosts Alaska Anchorage starts of our Turkey Day slate (5 p.m. Alaska Time, maybe about 9 p.m. ET?). Not much to say about this one other than the fact that Bobby Knight must be cold right now, which makes me happy.
Look out for that Gonzaga-Western Kentucky first round match (11:30 on Thursday – you’ll have to fight that turkey coma hard, you East coasters). This promises to be a good matchup between the Zags (14 in both polls) and the Hilltoppers (Sun Belt assassins?). Western Kentucky has been one of the mid-major darlings of the pre-season media, so Gonzaga should be able to play the Goliath card (hopefully with more success than the original).
Once we hit the 2nd round on Friday, this tournament really gets going. There’s a chance that we’re seeing the two best mid-major teams in the country in this tournament (hopefully including a matchup between Butler and the Zags on Saturday). I hope that I can stay up late enough to see the games in this tourney (Butler v. Va Tech possibly – 10:30 ET; Texas Tech v. Gonzaga – 12:00 AM ET). If you have TiVO, this is the TiVO tourney of the week, that’s for sure.
Thursday is our start date for this one, but don’t be sad if you forget to watch before Sunday. This tournament has some interesting potential matchups (USC v. Mississippi State or USC v. Southern Illinois), but also the worst slate of games possible. No offense to UC-Irvine, Chattanooga, South Alabama, and San Diego, but this tourney isn’t terribly attractive.
The odds of any of these three teams being upset are seriously low (that being said, clearly there will be an upset – I’m looking at you, Mississippi State), so it’s allright to avoid this tourney until the Title Game on Sunday. And our quick ranking update: SIU (No. 19 AP, No. 18 Coaches)
Old Spice Classic
This one kicks off on Thursday and has a couple of good games. George Mason plays Kansas State (No. 18 AP, No. 20 Coaches) and super freshman Michael Beasley on Thanksgiving. I am going to put this one up with the Western Kentucky-Gonzaga game as the two gems of the pre-season tournaments. No offense to the other teams, but this one has the potential of a March Madness type atmosphere with a top big conference school playing a plucky mid major that has some serious talent.
NC State will play Rider in their opening round game, and will be looking to rebound from a loss to New Orleans (I can’t say if it’s a good loss or a bad loss, but I’m leaning towards bad). Rider should give them a battle, but look for this Wolfpack team to pull away late.
South Carolina-Penn State and Villanova (No. 20 AP, No. 19 Coaches)-UCF round out the opening round games for this tournament. Neither of these two games do much for me, but UCF could cause some havoc coming off of their upset win against Nevada on the 11th. These two games are worth a watch, however, just to see what some of the weaker power conference schools (not ‘Nova, they’re pretty damn good) are capable of.
In terms of the second round on Friday, look forward to a potential Villanova-Kansas State tilt that is pretty much the title game for this tourney (unless NC State plays a lot better). Even if K-State goes down to Mason, a Villanova-Mason game should be just as exciting. Keep an eye on your TV listings for this one if ‘Nova gets by UCF. In the top half of this bracket, with the Rider-NC State winner playing the South Carolina-Penn State winner, I’m not too terribly excited for that.
That’s it for your round-up of the pre-season tourneys. It’s good to be here, and I look forward to another great season of NCAA hoops!