By Jon Rothstein
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The next few days are filled with several early season tournaments in college basketball.
Check below for a comprehensive breakdown.
2K SPORTS CLASSIC
When: Thursday and Friday
Teams: Oregon State, Alabama, Villanova, Purdue
Players To Watch: Ahmad Starks (Oregon State), Trevor Releford (Alabama), Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova), Ronnie Johnson (Purdue)
The Skinny: Four BCS level programs come to Madison Square Garden with the chance to make an early season statement. Alabama was the highest rated team of the group entering the season but they’re going to be taking on an Oregon State team that has a chance to be a real sleeper in the PAC-12. The Beavers have a dynamic guard in Starks as well as a capable wing in Roberto Nelson and a really skilled forward in Angus Brandt. The match up between Villanova and Purdue should feature a fascinating showdown between two freshmen point guards in Arcidiacono and the Boilermakers Ronnie Johnson.
Prediction: Oregon State over Villanova
PUERTO RICO SHOOTOUT
Teams: Oklahoma State, Akron, UNC-Asheville, Tennessee, NC State, Penn State, Providence, Umass
Players To Watch: Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State), Zeke Marshall (Akron), Jeremy Atkinson (UNC-Asheville), Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee), Lorenzo Brown (NC State), Tim Frazier (Penn State), Bryce Cotton (Providence), Chaz Williams (Umass)
The Skinny: The biggest reason why we look forward to this tournament? We should have a much better read on the Wolfpack after Sunday. NC State came into this season with monumental expectations and was picked first in the ACC preseason poll — but they should be tested more than once in Puerto Rico. In their opener, the Wolfpack will tangle with Penn State, a team that might have the nation’s most underrated back court with Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill. Should they advance, NC State coach Mark Gottfried will likely have to face a pesky Umass team and then probably Tennessee or Oklahoma State in the finals.
Prediction: Tennessee over NC State
Teams: Dayton, Colorado, Baylor, Boston College, St. John’s, Charleston, Auburn, Murray State
Players To Watch: Kevin Dillard (Dayton), Andre Roberson (Colorado), Pierre Jackson (Baylor), Ryan Anderson (Boston College), Chris Obekpa (St. John’s), Andrew Lawrence (Charleston), Frankie Sullivan (Auburn), Isaiah Canaan (Murray State)
The Skinny: We’re salivating at a potential second-round match up between the Bears and the Buffaloes but first Colorado will have to deal with a solid Dayton team led by their second-year coach Archie Miller. St. John’s should be able to push through their half of the bracket as long as they get the quality back court play they got in their opener from sophomores Phil Greene and D’Angelo Harrison. The most intriguing player to watch in this field? Obekpa. The 6-9 shot blocker is already one of the best rim protectors in college basketball and should get better and better as the season continues. We’d charter a private plane to Charleston to watch him go toe to toe with Baylor freshman big man Isaiah Austin on Sunday in the championship game should both teams advance. Okay, maybe we wouldn’t do that but you get what we’re saying.
Prediction: Baylor over St. John’s
COACHES VS. CANCER
When: Friday and Saturday
Teams: BYU, Florida State, Notre Dame, Saint Joseph’s
Players To Watch: Matt Carlino (BYU), Michael Snaer (Florida State), Jack Cooley (Notre Dame), Langston Galloway (Saint Joseph’s)
The Skinny: The Barclays Center has put together a terrific foursome here. Each of these teams could very well play in the NCAA Tournament and the only thing that disappoints us in regards to this field is that the Tay Jones, Saint Joseph’s leading scorer will miss Friday night’s tilt against Notre Dame due to suspension. Meanwhile, BYU now has three legitimate offensive threats with Brandon Davies, Tyler Haws, and Matt Carlino while Florida State is still trying to adapt to their new perimeter personnel. We love the Irish and firmly believe this could be Notre Dame coach Mike Brey’s best team yet in South Bend. Considering the success he’s had there, that’s really saying something.
Prediction: Notre Dame over BYU
MOHEGAN SUN TIP-OFF TOURNAMENT
When: Saturday and Sunday
Teams: Ohio State, Rhode Island, Seton Hall, Washington
Players To Watch: Aaron Craft (Ohio State), Xavier Munford (Rhode Island), Fuquan Edwin (Seton Hall), C.J. Wilcox (Washington
The Skinny: The Buckeyes are clearly the best team in this field, especially after the Huskies fell at home on Sunday night to Albany. Ohio State has three All-Big Ten caliber players in Craft, Deshaun Thomas, and Lenzelle Smith plus an extremely underrated sophomore class. Keep an eye on Seton Hall. The Pirates still have question marks at point guard but their coach Kevin Willard is one of the more underrated tacticians in the business. He should have his team more than ready for Washington, who is clearly the second most talented team in this field and needs to bounce back with a strong weekend.
Prediction: Ohio State over Washington
Teams: UConn, Wake Forest, George Mason, Iona, Mercer, New Mexico, Quinnipiac, Illinois-Chicago
Players To Watch: Shabazz Napier (UConn), Travis McKie (Wake Forest), Sherrod Wright (George Mason), Sean Armand (Iona), Travis Smith (Mercer), Tony Snell (New Mexico), Iko Azotam (Quinnipiac), Josh Crittle (Illinois-Chicago)
The Skinny: Newly minted UConn head coach Kevin Ollie looks like he has his team on a mission and they’ll look to make another national statement during this tournament. The potential second-round showdown between UConn and upstart Iona could be intriguing because of how strong each team is on the perimeter. The Huskies have one of the nation’s most explosive back courts in Napier and sophomore Ryan Boatright while the Gaels have a strong trio with Armand, Iowa State transfer Tavon Sledge, and Momo Jones. George Mason will welcome back sophomores Vaughn Gray and Erik Copes from suspension in the second game they play and Copes could be a real factor should the Patriots play New Mexico because of his ability to take up space in the paint. The Paradise Jam isn’t the first tournament people are zeroing in on this weekend, but there’s plenty of potential intriguing story lines.
Prediction: UConn over New Mexico
Which tourney will you be glued to? Be heard in the comments below!