All early season college basketball tournaments are not created equal, as you can see by this exhaustive list. A column about “The 4 Worst Opening Tournaments” may soon be in the offering. However, there are quite a few intriguing match-ups in various tourneys around the country that will start off the 2013-14 NCAA basketballseason with a bang.
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4. OLD SPICE CLASSIC
Teams: Butler Bulldogs, LSU Tigers, Memphis Tigers, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Purdue Boilermakers, St. Joseph’s Hawks, Siena Saints, Washington State Cougars
Possible intrigue includes how Butler looks without Brad Stevens, how much talent Memphis has that the nation seldom gets to see, and if either St. Joes or Siena look like they could spoil someone’s March this year. But you’re going to want to tune in to see Oklahoma State and Marcus Smart. Lots of NBA Draft Guru’s had Smart as a lottery pick last year, yet he’s back to take a second run at an NCAA Championship in Stillwater. Smart has already declared that this is his last year at Oklahoma State, so enjoy him in the college game while you can.
3. BATTLE 4 ATLANTIS
Teams: Iowa Hawkeyes, Kansas Jayhawks, USC Trojans, Tennessee Volunteers, UTEP Miners, Villanova Wildcats, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Xavier Musketeers, Abilene Christian Wildcats, The Citadel Bulldogs, Towson Tigers, West Alabama Tigers
Lots of good teams and compelling stories here, but first off: hat tip to the University of Tennessee for this awesome promotional video.
This is probably the best top-to-bottom tournament of the bunch. You have perennial contender Kansas, USC under new Coach Andy Enfield (of Florida Gulf Coast fame), the aforementioned Tennessee Vols with the most talented squad Coach Cuonzo Martin has had in Knoxville, and a field loaded with teams that are going to have Selection Sunday hopes.
2. HALL OF FAME TIPOFF
Teams: Louisville Cardinals, North Carolina Tarheels, Fairfield Stags, Richmond Spiders, Belmont Bruins, Hartford Hawks, Hofstra Pride [Flying Dutchman], Holy Cross Crusaders.
Your returning NCAA champions, bolstered by returning All-American Shooting Guard Russ Smith, will play their typical Rick Pitino uptempo style, particularly since 6-8 Montrezl Harrell is playing in the post. They’re facing a UNC team that is deeper than last year and headed by a returning James Michael McAdoo, a potential ACC Player of the Year. This is an instant watch, a potential track meet style game and catnip for casual viewers and hardcore hoopsters alike. Also, an undercard which has the perpetually bracket busting Belmont, who I’m sure Carolina put on there just to annoy Duke, plus a few other upset specials makes this a fun watch.
1. NIT SEASON TIP-OFF
Teams: Alabama Crimson Tide, Arizona Wildcats, Duke Blue Devils, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, UNC-Ashville Bulldogs, Stillman Tigers, Rhode Island Rams, Norfork State Spartans, Metro State Roadrunners, McNeese State Cowboys, Georgia State Panthers, Fairleigh Dickinson Knights, Elon Phoenix [formerly Christians], East Carolina Pirates, Drexel Dragons, Canisius Golden Griffins
Jabari Parker is a star prospect with experts salivating over his future in the NBA. The major hype has been about Kentucky’s recruits, and with good reason, but if you’re wondering how much confidence Duke has in Parker, their marketing department has gone all in on Chicago’s next south side star.
Meanwhile, Arizona has an absolutely stacked roster and inside depth, which should make for an interesting game with Duke, provided both get there.
Bonus: ESPN CHAMPIONS CLASSIC
Games: Kansas vs. Duke; Michigan State v. Kentucky
Though not a tournament, this is a prime example of why whenever you hear some coach complain about games being scheduled for television, you should laugh and say “I know, isn’t it great?” Everyone wants to see Kentucky, with a loaded freshmen class full of players most of us have only seen via Youtube clips, we’ll get to see them early against a Michigan State team that has its sights set on a national title too, thank-very-much. On the other side of the bracket you have Kansas and Duke, which makes this tournament a perfect, shining star atop the college basketball tournament tree. Even if it’s not a tournament, it had to be included, as all of us will be watching.
What do you think?
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