A bevy of bracket reveals: Grading the best of the early season tourneys
With so many tournaments unveiling their fields today and on Wednesday, we thought it best to combine them and give you the rundown on which ones are the tops.
A slew of tournament brackets were released on Tuesday afternoon. There's more to come Wednesday. With the releases, we figure it's best to combine all the essential info into two posts over two days. Give you the who, where, when and grade the tourneys. It's great to see this stuff -- because it signals the season's approach. Still in the distance, but it's out there, on the horizon.
Let's get to it. In mostly chronological order.
Puerto Rico Tip-Off
Held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 20, 21 and 23. The bracket will begin with Texas A&M playing Dayton, then Charleston going up against UConn. The bottom half pits New Mexico against Boston College as well as George Mason against West Virginia. Those games all played on Nov. 20.
Grade: B. Puerto Rico has become reliable year in and year out. It's never going to be the best field, but it's almost always going to be among the five best tournaments, it seems. You've got the defending champs, last year's Elite Eight darlings, always-entertaining New Mexico and Bob Huggins! And with Doug Wojcik just getting fired, who knows who will be coaching Charleston by then.
Gildan Charleston Classic
Held at TD Arena in Charleston, South Carolina. The eight-team tourney will go from Nov. 20, 21 and 23. The Nov. 21 quadruple header starts with Akron-USC, then Drexel-Miami (FL), then Penn State-Charlotte, and finishes with Cornell-South Carolina.
Grade: C. Charleston's had better fields in the past five years, that's for sure. This is the "show me" bracket, of all the November tourneys we see. USC will try to become established in its second year under Andy Enfield. Will the Hurricanes be better? Penn State, Charlotte and South Carolina are all facing years where fans are expecting an uptick but nothing gargantuan.
Battle 4 Atlantis
Held at Imperial Arena in Paradise Island, Bahamas. The top half of the bracket has Wisconsin vs. UAB and Georgetown vs. Florida. The bottom half starts with UCLA-Oklahoma and UNC-Butler. Those games will be played Wednesday, Nov. 26. The tournament runs through Nov. 28.
Grade: A. Would be an A-plus if not for the insistence on subbing "4" for "four." I could go on and on about this one, but Parrish wrote about it earlier on the site. Go check it out.
Held at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. It will be played on Nov. 27, 28 and 30. Princeton vs. UTEP and San Diego vs. Xavier occupies the top half; Long Beach State-Western Michigan and San Jose State-Washington is at the bottom.
Grade: C+. Would love to see some nice play out of the mids involved here, but I'm hard pressed not to think Xavier can't strut to a title here. (I'm always wrong about these things, at least.) Overall, when you look at events like this, or Charleston's, you're seeing how so many of these are leading to the inevitable: just a little too watered down overall to make having more than a dozen exempt tourneys truly worth it.
MGM Grand Main Event
Held at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas on Nov. 24 and Nov. 26. Oklahoma State-Oregon State, Auburn-Tulsa, Oral Roberts-Louisiana Lafayette and UW-Milwaukee vs. a TBD opponent are the Nov. 24 games. Winners will move on and play each other on Nov. 26. There is also pre-Vegas, on-campus games for the big-conference teams involved.
Grade: C. We wrote on this a couple of weeks back, when the two Vegas MGM events were announced. The concept of the "middleweight" and "heavyweight" brackets for this "main event" are of course tied into Vegas' boxing appeal. It's not bad, but among the teams involved, how many are legitimate NCAA Tourney hopefuls? Oklahoma State could take a huge drop this year, remember. The best appeal here is Bruce Pearl and Auburn.
Held in Disney, at the HP Field House in Orlando. This used to be called the "Old Spice Classic." The tournament will be played on Nov. 27, 28 and 30. The bracket breaks down like this: On Nov. 27, it's Santa Clara-Tennessee, Kansas-Rhode Island, Michigan State-Rider and Marquette-Georgia Tech.
Grade: B+. That grade based solely on the prospect of a Kansas-Michigan State final. Self-Izzo? Always will take that. Tennessee's going to be the worst team in the SEC most likely, and Marquette could be in for a rough first year under Steve Wojciechowski. Georgia Tech's been treading water under Brian Gregory -- could they make some waves here? Rhode Island will have a chance to show out, thanks in part to E.C. Matthews, who might be the best player in the A-10 next season.
MGM Grand Showcase
Held at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas on Dec. 20. Only a one-night event that pits Oklahoma vs. Washington (9 p.m. ET) and Utah vs. UNLV approximately two hours later.
Grade: B+. Not a bad doubleheader at all. Washington's in a make-or-break year, and they'll get an OU team that's going to be good again. Top 25-good? Possibly. Utah is probably going to be the most hyped "underrated" team heading into the season, and UNLV is always a wild card. This one gets played well after the November tourne hype dies down, so it's a nice double dip just before Christmas.
Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Held at the at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu. The finals of this one are always held Christmas night. It starts on Dec. 22, and continues on Dec. 23. Ohio-George Washington, DePaul-Colorado, Loyola Marymount-Wichita State and Nebraska-Hawaii comprise the quarterfinals on Dec. 22.
Grade: B. George Washington, Colorado, Wichita State and Nebraska should all be NCAA Tournament teams. You get that into your field, you're a B tourney at the absolute worse. I'm surprise this event hasn't gotten totally huge, but I think it's placement just before Christmas has played a part in that.
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