College basketball is in full swing and with Thanksgiving coming up, that must only mean one thing – the early season tournaments have arrived! In this post, I will be exploring the potential matchups (or reviewing previous ones already played), expected winners and dark horse winners for most, but not all of the tournaments.
Tire Pros Invitational
November 17-18, 20: Lake Buena Vista, Florida (Bracket)
In the most magical place in the world, (according to family, most people of the western world, and especially the creator of the destination) Disney World hosts a solid group of basketball teams, especially with Xavier, Oklahoma, and Northern Iowa as favorites. I have Xavier as the favorite and was surprised to see Missouri hang tough with the Musketeers through to the end. A gaffe in decision making allowed Xavier to escape by 1 point. Northern Iowa blowing out Arizona wasn’t surprising. I figured they could take care of an Oklahoma team that, while missing Buddy Hield, still possesses great leadership and an ability to score the ball. Davidson will be a team to watch carefully, especially come conference time. I would consider them a middle of the pack A10 team that, if they are able to stay in some close games, could build a strong resume.
Championship Game: Nov. 20th, approx. 7:30p.m. (ESPN 2)
Favorite to win: Xavier Musketeers
Dark horse: Northern Iowa Panthers
Gildan Charleston Classic
November 17-18, 20: Charleston, South Carolina (Bracket)
Turning to a tournament with an elite team and handful of mid to low level teams, don’t be surprised with Villanova taking this one. UCF should be able to take a couple wins to play against Villanova in the championship. UCF’s height will create major problems for Villanova. I would take Villanova’s experience over UCF’s height, however.
Championship Game: Nov. 20th, approx. 9:30 p.m. (ESPN 2)
Favorite to win: Villanova Wildcats
Dark horse: University of Central Florida Knights
U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam
November 18-21: St. Thomas, V.I. (Bracket)
In a place I’d rather be right now, the Creighton Bluejays are my favorites to win this tournament. After a convincing home win against Wisconsin, the Bluejays should be able to handle their opponents, although they do have good competition among them. It’s unfortunate to see NC State play Creighton before the final game, but I would have say that Montana could surprise some people. The Griz have been on the cusp of great wins in the last couple of years and are due for a great result. This is a good opportunity to do that. Ole Miss can put up points and I have them as my dark horse to look for.
Championship Game: November 21st: 8:30p.m. (CBSSN)
Favorite to win: Creighton Bluejays
Dark horse: Ole Miss Runnin’ Rebels
Hall of Fame Tip-Off
November 19-20: Uncasville, Connecticut (Bracket)
I was slightly confused by this bracket layout, but after investigating, it made more sense to me, slightly. There are two brackets – the Naismith bracket seems to have better caliber teams including Duke, Penn State, Cincinnati, and Rhode Island. The Springfield bracket has teams that wouldn’t stand much of a chance against the teams listed prior. The Springfield teams include Marist, Brown, Grand Canyon, and Albany. Of those teams, I would pick Grand Canyon because they have the ability to put up points quickly. In the Naismith bracket, I have Duke as the favorite, but Rhode Island could be the dangerous team. As I wrote in my previous post, Rhode Island has a strong team this year that could bust some brackets come March. I just watched the Rams overcome a 12 point deficit to Cincinnati. The Bearcats possess a strong defense and efficient offense that can cause problems for any team.
Naismith Championship: November 20th, 1p.m. (ESPN)
Favorite to win: Duke Blue Devils
Dark horse: Rhode Island Rams
Springfield Championship: Nov. 20th, 8:30p.m. (ESPN3)
Favorite to win: Grand Canyon Antelopes
Dark horse: Albany Great Danes
November 21-23: Lahaina, Hawaii (Bracket)
This deep field will not have a shortage of great games. With Wisconsin, Oregon, and Georgetown headlining the tournament (the last seems to be questionable now with an awful loss to Central Arkansas at home), My choice as the favorite is North Carolina. The Badgers will slow teams down and play at their pace, but it will have to hang tough with some strong offensive firepower, especially North Carolina. With a few new faces in the rotation, Nigel Hayes and company will be tested. I think the final is Wisconsin vs. UNC with the Tar Heels taking it. I want to put a plug in for the most disappointing team in NCAA at the moment is also in this field. Will the Connecticut Huskies be able to turn things around in Maui and upset a few teams?
Games to watch:
November 21st, 4:30p.m. – Georgetown vs. Oregon
Potential and Exciting Matchups
November 22nd, 8p.m. – Wisconsin vs. Oregon/ Wisconsin vs. Georgetown
November 23rd, 9:30p.m. – Oregon vs. North Carolina/ Wisconsin vs. North Carolina
Championship Game: Nov. 23rd, 10:00p.m. (ESPN2)
Favorite to win: North Carolina Tar Heels
Dark horse: Wisconsin Badgers
Battle 4 Atlantis
November 23-25: Paradise Island, Bahamas (Bracket)
Headlining this tournament are the likes of Baylor, Michigan State, Wichita State, and Louisville. A talented and young St. John’s team will push the pace and increase the number of possessions. Their youth and length will breed upset or disaster most likely. Wichita State has been impressive in their wins this season, having only blowouts to account for on their unblemished record. Their opponents would seem to be gutter teams, but they beat a Long Beach State team that was touted as a tough team to beat.
Games to watch:
November 23rd, 7p.m. – Michigan State vs. St. John’s
If the Red Storm can make their 3’s, this will be a much closer game than Sparty would like. I see the Spartans moving on though.
Potential and Exciting Matchups:
November 24th, 2:30p.m. – Wichita State vs. Louisville
Favorite to win: Michigan State
Dark horse: Wichita State
Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational
November 24-25: Las Vegas (No Bracket Available)
A similar format to the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament, there are separate brackets, a Hosts’ bracket and a Visitors’ bracket. The Hosts’ bracket includes Arizona, Butler, Santa Clara, and Vanderbilt. The Visitors’ bracket includes Bucknell, Norfolk State, Northern Colorado, and Sacred Heart. Arizona comes in as a heavy favorite to make it to the final as they play Santa Clara in the semifinal. If Santa Clara wants to upset Arizona, they’ll have to go back a few years, recruit different players, make a lot of 3’s in the game and play incredible defense. As the first part is impossible to do, they will have to rely solely on grit and play a slow paced game. I see Butler joining Arizona in the final, beating a Vanderbilt team with a new, yet intelligent coach. Bryce Drew will look to build off a fresh start with the same intensity from his players to take on the best teams.
Games to Watch:
November 24th, 8p.m. – Vanderbilt vs. Butler
Potential and Exciting Matchup:
November 25th, 10:30p.m. – Arizona vs. Butler
Favorite to win: Arizona
Dark horse: Vanderbilt
There are many more tournaments, both bracketed and non-bracketed. However, I covered ones that will most likely get the most coverage. Also, I don’t have a lot of time to cover others because of life’s responsibilities. I do enjoy writing about college basketball and plan to do it more frequently this year. Inspired by Ken Pomeroy, a statistician that many players and coaches across college basketball use. He provides incredible scope and detail into the fun and unexplored intricacies of the sport of college basketball.
Least Likely Wins
To date, the least likely win of the season comes from Arkansas State. Their foe: the Georgetown Hoyas. Kenpom’s formula for chance of winning a game gave Arkansas State a 2% chance of winning. In fact, depending on where you look, Georgetown was a 22 or 23 point favorite to win that game. At one point, Arkansas State was up by 23 points.
Fastest and Slowest Games of the Week
Something I will track week to week throughout the 2016-2017 college basketball season are the fastest and slowest games. Games between Division I teams are the only ones that will be considered in this research. Numbers will come from Ken Pomeroy’s website. Usually depending on timing, I am striving to get this information out either on Saturday or Sunday. These numbers will date back a bit further to the start of the season, Friday, November 11th.
Fastest Games of the Week
Iowa State 113 vs. Savannah State 71, 97 possessions
The Citadel 116 vs. Stetson 112, 93 possessions
Slowest Games of the Week
South Carolina 81 vs. Holy Cross 49, 56 possessions
Syracuse 90 vs. Holy Cross 46, 56 possessions
In an impressive feat, Holy Cross claims two of the lowest scoring point totals of the season in the two slowest games of the season thus far. Holy Cross is allowing their two opponents 70.4% shooting and over half of their opponents are grabbing missed shots at a clip of 51%. Basically, you could throw a ball up at the rim 10 times, and you can be confident your teammate will come down with it 5 times. To be fair, Holy Cross’s two opponents have incredible length. Ironically, Holy Cross had more offensive rebounds than Syracuse, holding a 16-15 advantage.
As I mentioned last year when I began this blog, my passion for college basketball was fueled by a variety of people and experiences. My shared experiences with my grandfather at Hinkle Fieldhouse watching the Butler Bulldogs over a period of fifteen-plus years cemented my passion and support for the Bulldogs and the sport of college basketball in general. I will provide my own thoughts which will definitely vary from others because we are all entitled to our own opinions.
I’m encouraged and impressed with Tyler Lewis’s leadership on the court. He has maintained his push the pace style, yet has improved his passing and decision making to begin this season. The addition of Kamar Bladwin at the point guard position provides depth and an athletic complement to Kelan Martin when both are on the floor. Baldwin’s intensity on defense allows for transition points for himself and others on the floor. I anticipate Baldwin playing a major role for the Bulldogs as the season progresses. Andrew Chrabascz is probably one of the most fun players to watch mainly because of his reactions to plays. His intensity on the court from one play to the next provides encouragement to others. He knows when he is in the wrong and quickly wants to make it right. His desire to create space in the lane for his shots will continue to be rewarded throughout the season. Maybe not in points, but he can increase the number of assists by finding the extra pass to a player cutting to the basket.
The Bulldogs will play Norfolk State on Monday this week and then travel to Las Vegas to take on Vanderbilt in the semifinal of their tournament on November 24th. The Dawgs will play either Santa Clara or Arizona the following day. I expect Butler to handle Norfolk State easily. I think the Bulldogs will play a close game with Vanderbilt before winning by double digits and then keep it close with Arizona before falling. Once the Bulldogs find their identity this season, they will be tough to beat.