Thursday, July 26, 2012
Bracket reveal: Legends Classic
By Eamonn Brennan
When and where: Nov. 19-20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Semifinal schedule for the Legends Classic Nov. 19: Indiana vs. Georgia (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU); UCLA vs. Georgetown (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Nov. 20: Third-place game (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU); championship game (10 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Initial thoughts: It may be a simple four-game showcase, but this is a high-profile and exciting way to bring college hoops to the shiny, bottle-service-in-your-luxury-box Barclays Center. I'm all-in. ... These four teams have combined for 119 NCAA tournament appearances, primarily thanks to Indiana, UCLA and Georgetown, three of the sport's most storied programs. ... This is UCLA's coming-out party, and it's going to be fascinating to see that talented squad begin to sort itself out in some of its first high-profile, klieg-light competition.
Indiana's Cody Zeller enters his sophomore season as one of the favorites for national player of the year.
Matchup I can't wait to see: UCLA versus Georgetown. It's really our first glimpse at UCLA uber-recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. It will also be our first look at how those players fit alongside purportedly slimming center Joshua Smith, forwards Travis and David Wear and former UNC point guard Larry Drew II, who could be the straw that stirs the drink or ... well, whatever the opposite of that metaphor would be. When Drew II rightfully lost his point guard spot to Kendall Marshall at UNC, he quit and transferred to UCLA a few weeks later. He should have redemption on his mind from day one in 2012-13. By the way, this isn't all about UCLA. Georgetown is going to be talented in its own right. Don't be shocked if swingman Otto Porter, and not Muhammad or Anderson, is the best player on the floor.
Potential matchup I'd like to see: Indiana vs. UCLA. I'd be fine with Indiana-Georgetown too, but a chance to see what is likely to be two top-five teams -- not to mention two all-time bluebloods -- square off as early as Nov. 20 is absolute manna from the hoops heavens.
Five players to watch
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia: The 6-foot-5 shooting guard arrived at Georgia as the putative in-state savior, and while he wasn't quite that good as a freshman, he displayed plenty of long-term potential. The Legends Classic will be our first look at him since.
Larry Drew II, UCLA: There are a lot of players who deserve consideration (IU's Yogi Ferrell, UCLA's Anderson, Georgetown's Stephen Domingo), but Drew II might be the most fascinating, given his epic flameout at UNC and his reputation for being less than team-oriented. This is a huge season for UCLA. The Bruins' talent is immense. Has Drew II matured? Can he lead a team? Does he even need to? We'll see.
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA: A 6-foot-6 guard with a versatile array of skills, he arrives in Westwood with as much hype as any UCLA freshman in some time. But is Muhammad all he is cracked up to be? Will he work in coach Ben Howland's system? You know what they say about first impressions.
Otto Porter, Georgetown: The stretchy swingman emerged from small-town Missouri in relative anonymity last season just in time to make a major impression on an upperclassmen-led Georgetown team. This year, Porter takes the reins, and Hoyas fans are right to expect big things.
Cody Zeller, Indiana: Zeller was already a beast as a freshman, but he spent the summer expanding his game and improving his core strength. This will be the first chance to see -- against quality competition at least -- the results of that offseason regimen. It's an early glimpse at the early favorite for national player of the year.
Indiana over UCLA: I get the feeling the Bruins will be a work in progress throughout November and December, which is OK; there's a lot of talent to mesh in one offseason. Indiana has its own pieces to incorporate but will arrive in 2012-13 much more fully formed, and it'll be the better team at the Legends Classic.
Whom others are picking:
Andy Katz: Indiana over UCLA
Jason King: Indiana over UCLA
Myron Medcalf: Indiana over UCLA
Dana O'Neil: Indiana over UCLA