- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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Editor's note: Over two days, we're releasing the brackets/matchups for 11 of the top early-season events. A thread of previews and info for all 11 tourneys can be found here.
Tournament bracket for the Wooden Legacy.
When and where: Nov. 28-29 at Titan Gym in Fullerton, Calif.; Dec. 1 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Initial thoughts: What used to be the 76 Classic and the Anaheim Classic has produced a field the Wizard would approve of. This field crisscrosses the country for teams, mixes in high-profile name brands with others on the rise and features a player that Wooden would certainly adore -- Creighton’s Doug McDermott. The interesting part about the field? No one is a given. The top draw teams -- Marquette, Creighton, San Diego State and Miami -- all have holes to fill, some more than others, but all have the potential to become very good by season’s end.
Matchup I can’t wait to see: Creighton-Arizona State. The Bluejays got some unexpected good news this offseason when the NCAA granted guard Grant Gibbs an extra year of eligibility. He’s not the same type of player that Jahii Carson is -- with the luxury of playing setup man thanks to McDermott whereas Carson is more a one-man wrecking crew -- but he’s every bit as important. Herb Sendek’s squad keeps nosing at the bar. Can the Sun Devils get an early breakthrough with a win here?
Potential matchup I’d like to see: Marquette-Miami, a rematch of last year’s Sweet 16 matchup. Let’s be honest. A lot of people want to know if the Hurricanes of last season were merely a flash in the pan or if Jim Larranaga has something brewing in South Florida. This would be a good gauge. Unlike Miami, Marquette has plenty of talent back and is adding more to the fold in the form of JaJuan Johnson. Plus, when was the last time it was smart to count out the Golden Eagles?
Five players to watch
Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott is the single best walk-on in college basketball, accepting that role after Gibbs was granted an extra year. Already a two-time All-American, he gave the sport a boost when he opted to return for his senior year. Now we all get to enjoy it.
Jahii Carson, Arizona State: He may be the best player many people haven’t heard of. The Pac-12 co-freshman of the year, Carson is a dynamic point guard who can score and dish with equal efficiency. A good showing would be like an overdue debut for the Sun Devil.
Davante Gardner, Marquette: The Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year was rock solid last season but will be expected to do even more this year now that Vander Blue is gone. He’s more than capable, as he’s proved in the past.
Xavier Thames, San Diego State: Now that Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley are gone, it’s Thames’ turn. He played much of last season with a bad back and still managed to be an adept floor manager. But the challenge is greater without Franklin and Tapley to feed.
Maurice Creek, George Washington: The hard-luck senior spent the better part of his Indiana career rehabbing various injuries. For his final run, he decided to go close to home, transferring to GW, where -- since he already graduated -- he can play immediately. Once a red-hot recruit, if he can finally stay healthy and realize his potential, it could be big for the Colonials.
Title-game prediction: Creighton over Marquette.
This could be a preview of the first new Big East title game. Either the Bluejays, with McDermott back in the fold, or the Golden Eagles, hot off their Elite Eight run, ought to be favored to win the conference.
Who others are picking:
Eamonn Brennan: Marquette over Creighton
Jeff Goodman: Creighton over Marquette
Andy Katz: Creighton over Marquette
Jason King: Marquette over Creighton
Myron Medcalf: Marquette over Creighton