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Early Season Tournaments: Brackets, Observations, And Odds: Part 3

Today, I continue to preview the early season tournaments with printable bracket links, title odds, and commentary. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2

Anaheim Classic Printable Bracket

Xavier

7.3%

Pacific

1.1%

St. Mary's

22.8%

Drexel

15.0%

Georgia Tech

6.9%

Rice

0.1%

California

45.1%

Drake

1.6%

My model tends to predict big things for former Top 100 recruits, but despite 7 top recruits the model isn’t optimistic about Georgia Tech. Part of that is how poorly some of the Tech players performed last season. The other part is Brian Gregory’s track record. Gregory hasn’t exactly been a master at developing offensive stars. But if new elite recruits Robert Carter and Marcus Hunt are ready to play and a few of the returning players are late bloomers, Georgia Tech could still be a surprise this year.

This tournament has become substantially less appealing in the last two months. First Xavier expelled Dezmine Wells. Then Omar Oraby and Arsalan Kazemi announced they were transferring from Rice. But St. Mary’s welcomes back Matthew Dellavedova fresh off his Olympic summer, and Cal head coach Mike Montgomery is an NCAA tournament fixture, so expect at least a couple of these teams to be around in March.

Las Vegas Invitational Printable Bracket

Nov 23-24

 

Arkansas

33.1%

Arizona St.

2.3%

Wisconsin

42.5%

Creighton

22.1%

Creighton brings back one of the most fun teams in the nation. Doug McDermott is a preseason All-American. Gregory Echenique is the shot-blocker in the middle who rocks a sweet pair of glasses. But I hope this is the year the other Blue Jays starters get some love. Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat are lethal three point shooters. Wragge knocked down 66 threes last year, while Manigat knocked down 59.

And Grant Gibbs is the point-guard who keeps everything moving. All five of these guys should be household names this year. It is hard to write about Creighton without raising questions about their defense, but that is the only reason they aren’t the favorite here.

Wisconsin is getting some love this preseason, but the numbers like Wisconsin a little too much. (The Badgers actually finished 5th last season according to the tempo free stats which was a bit of a stretch.) Certainly Wisconsin’s defense should be top notch again, but replacing Jordan Taylor could be a struggle early in the season, no matter how many strong offensive players the Badgers bring back.

Arizona St. is still a long way from fielding a competitive team in the Pac-12. But Arkansas should be substantially more dangerous this season.

Global Sports Classic Printable Bracket

Nov 23-24

 

Iowa St.

30.3%

Cincinnati

16.3%

UNLV

47.6%

Oregon

5.8% 

I’ve talked about UCLA and Indiana returning to glory this season, but UNLV is well on its way as well. First head coach Dave Rice followed the tradition of former UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian and upped UNLV’s tempo last year from 110th in the nation to 29th. And then he made sure he had the offensive talent to make a fast pace work. Not only does UNLV return stars like Mike Moser and Anthony Marshall, the Rebels also bring in plenty of newcomers who should be instant contributors. Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch (eligible midseason) and USC’s Bryce Jones give the team incredible depth, and Top 10 recruit Anthony Bennett gives UNLV the star power to beat anyone.

And even though the MWC was much improved last season, UNLV would love nothing more than to beat a couple of Power 6 conference teams and legitimize their resume early in the season. Oregon might not be an NCAA team (unless Arsalan Kazemi surprises us and becomes eligible), but the Ducks still look like a Top 100 opponent. And Iowa St. will be plenty good. This year the Cyclones only add two transfers (Michigan St.’s Korie Lucious and Utah’s Will Clyburn), but with returning leaders like Chris Babb and Melvin Ejim, the Cyclones remain dangerous.

As for Cincinnati, the Bearcats guards are fantastic, but Cincinnati has huge question marks in the front court. Returning forwards Justin Jackson and Cheikh Mbodj were not nearly as efficient as the departing starter Yancy Gates. And that means the team will have to hope freshman Shaquille Thomas, JUCO transfer David Nyarsuk, or JUCO transfer Titus Rubles can contribute immediately. It isn’t a huge stretch that one of these players will break out, but that uncertainty is why Cincinnati projects as a bubble team instead of a clear Top 25 squad.

South Padre Island Invitational Printable Bracket

Nov 23-24

 

UAB

7.4%

Illinois St.

45.7%

TCU

7.7%

Northwestern

39.3%

Illinois St. has the returning talent to be the favorite, even without former head coach Tim Jankovich who left to be the coach-in-waiting at SMU. But Northwestern is the most fascinating team here. First, the Wildcats have a sudden influx of big men including TCU transfer Nikola Cerina, Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire, freshman Mike Turner, and 7 footers Chier Ajou and Alex Olah. Bill Carmody’s teams have never made the NCAA tournament, in no small part because they have lacked the defensive presence to shut down elite Big Ten teams. So I will be very curious to see if Northwestern’s defense can take a step forward this year with the addition of some true post defenders. And I will be equally curious to see if sharpshooter Alex Marcotullio earns more time this season. Northwestern is going to need Marcotullio’s scoring now that John Shurna has graduated, but his slow feet may have kept him off the court in the past. Perhaps with some quality defenders backing him up, Marcotullio can become more than just an occasional three point specialist.

Hoops for Hope Classic Printable Bracket

Nov 24-25

 

SMU

19.4%

Ark.-Little Rock

8.9%

South Carolina

57.6%

Missouri St.

14.0%

Larry Brown and Frank Martin are both starting rebuilding projects, but Frank Martin’s blueprint is more conducive to immediate success. Martin will immediately add toughness to his team’s lineup, and his team will rebound and defend its way out of the SEC cellar.

Las Vegas Classic Printable Bracket

Dec 22-23

 

Virginia Tech

47.8%

Bradley

3.6%

Colorado St.

41.6%

Portland

7.0% 

Colorado St.’s Pierce Hornung may be 6’5”, but he is a rebounding machine and he is always worth the price of admission. And Colorado St. may be even more thrilled to have a real post center this year with Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson joining the mix. But the Rams seriously over-achieved last year, and could be in for a bit of a let-down this season.

On the flip side, Virginia Tech seriously under-achieved last year, and it cost head coach Seth Greenberg his job. Virginia Tech finished 4-12 last year, tied for dead last in the ACC. But their stats looked more like a mid-level ACC team than a cellar dweller. And with many of the most talented players returning, including Erick Green and Jarrell Eddie, Virginia Tech and Colorado St. looks like a toss-up. Indeed the reason Virginia Tech is the favorite here is because of the first round match-up. Bradley has been on a downward spiral in recent seasons, and because they are a much easier first round opponent, Virginia Tech gets the slight edge for the tournament title.

Diamond Head Classic Printable Bracket

Dec 22-25

 

Indiana St.

0.7%

Mississippi

10.3%

San Francisco

0.0%

San Diego St.

22.8%

E. Tennessee St.

0.0%

Arizona

46.4%

Hawaii

0.3%

Miami FL

19.4% 

Feel free to skip the first day of this tournament. Nowhere else in an eight team field are the quarterfinal matchups so lopsided. But the semifinals and finals should be solid.

First, it will be fun to see all of Arizona’s elite prospects in action. Were it not for UCLA’s incredible haul, everyone would be talking about Arizona’s great recruiting class. It will also be intriguing to see if Mississippi can break out of its NIT rut. Andy Kennedy could desperately use an upset here if he wants to end up on the right side of the bubble for a change.

But the real intrigue is with San Diego St. and Miami. First, San Diego St.’s resume looked great last year and earned the team a 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. But the margin-of-victory statistics disagreed and said the Aztecs were more like an NIT team. Games like these can help sort out whether the margin-of-victory stats had the right or wrong conclusion.

But the real team I want to see is Miami FL. Jim Larranaga was expected to turn a group of talented under-achievers into an NCAA tournament team last year, but he found that getting players like wide-bodied center Reggie Johnson to commit to defense was no easy task. It will be interesting to see whether he can motivate a group of talented veterans including Johnson and Durand Scott, or whether younger players like the extremely talented Rion Brown and point guard Shane Larkin ultimately seize the identity of this team. Miami clearly has the talent to make the NCAA tournament, but Jim Larranaga is finding out that coaching a team that “should” make the NCAA tournament is often harder than coaching a team that “hopes” to make the NCAA tournament.

 

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