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Thursday, July 26, 2012
Bracket reveal: CBE Classic

By Jason King

When and where: Nov. 19-20 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. (each of the four featured teams will host two games on their home floor prior to the semis)

Semifinal schedule for the CBE Classic

Nov. 19: Texas A&M vs. Saint Louis (7:30 ET, ESPNU); Kansas vs. Washington State (10 ET, ESPN2)
Nov. 20: Third-place game (7 ET, ESPN3); championship game (9:30 ET, ESPNU)

Initial thoughts: The knee-jerk reaction is to look at this bracket and tab Kansas as the runaway favorite. But don’t hand the trophy to the Jayhawks just yet. Saint Louis is the choice of many to win the 16-team Atlantic 10 this season, and it doesn’t hurt that the Billikens tout one of the country’s top coaches in Rick Majerus. ... Kansas, which features eight freshmen, may still be trying to work out some kinks as it incorporates new players early in the season, which would be natural. ... Watch out for SLU on the perimeter. Kwamain Mitchell, Jordair Jett and Mike McCall Jr. were each among the team’s top six scorers last season. All of them are guards. ... Texas A&M players are used to playing at the Sprint Center from their days as a member of the Big 12. Billy Kennedy’s team lost Khris Middleton to the NBA draft and Dash Harris and David Loubeau to graduation. The Aggies have five newcomers, including four who play on the perimeter. ... Ken Bone has had three straight winning seasons at Washington State but has yet to lead the Cougars to the NCAA tournament or an upper-half finish in the Pac-12.

Jeff Withey
A youthful Kansas team will surely rely on veteran Jeff Withey's ability to swat shots next season.
Matchup I can't wait to see: Texas A&M vs. Saint Louis. Even though the Billikens appear to be better on paper, it’d be foolish for them to look past A&M. The Aggies return leading scorer Elston Turner and are solid down low with Kourtney Roberson (who missed all but 10 games last season with an injury) and leading returning rebounder Ray Turner.

Potential matchup I'd like to see: Kansas vs. Saint Louis. Even in a loss, a strong performance against the Jayhawks would likely vault SLU into the Top 25 -- if it isn’t there already.

Five players to watch

Keith Carter, Saint Louis: Billikens coach Rick Majerus said Carter, a freshman, is the second best guard he’s ever had. No. 1 for Majerus is Andre Miller, who led Utah to the 1998 NCAA title game before a long career in the NBA.

Ben McLemore, Kansas: His teammates have compared him to former KU star Brandon Rush, and head coach Bill Self said McLemore is one of the most athletic players he’s ever signed. A wing who redshirted last season, McLemore has yet to play a college game. Could this be his coming-out party?

Brock Motum, Washington State: The 6-foot-10, 230-pound Motum is one of the best players in the Pac-12. He averaged team highs in both points (18) and rebounds (6.4) last season. It’ll be interesting to see him battle KU’s Jeff Withey in the opening round.

Elston Turner, Texas A&M: Turner, who began his career at Washington, led Texas A&M in scoring last season with 13.6 points per game. The small forward also shot a respectable 39 percent from 3-point range.

Jeff Withey, Kansas: The 7-foot senior will enter the season as the nation’s premier shot-blocker. Withey averaged 3.6 swats per contest last season. With Thomas Robinson now in the NBA, the onus will be on Withey to become more of a threat on offense.

Title-game prediction

Kansas over Saint Louis. Their roster may feature eight freshmen, but the Jayhawks still have a solid group of returning players in Withey, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Kevin Young. This will feel like a home game for Kansas. Granted, that didn’t matter two years ago, when Self’s squad dropped a nonconference game against Davidson at the Sprint Center.

Who others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: Kansas over Saint Louis
Andy Katz: Kansas over Saint Louis
Myron Medcalf: Kansas over Saint Louis
Dana O'Neil: Kansas over Saint Louis