College Basketball Nation: Las Vegas Invitational

Feast Week predictions, brackets

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
12:15
PM ET
This is one of the greatest weeks of the season, a week in which tournament games fill our televisions and computer screens nearly all day long. So before preparing that turkey, get yourself prepared for the tourneys that begin on Turkey Day weekend.

Below you'll find predictions from 10 of our experts, along with brackets and tournament previews. Feel free to leave your own predictions in the comments section ... and let the debate begin!

Battle 4 Atlantis
Tournament bracket and Jason King's primer

Eamonn Brennan: Louisville over Duke
John Gasaway: Duke over Louisville
Seth Greenberg: Duke over Louisville
Andy Katz: Louisville over Duke
Jason King: Louisville over Duke
Joe Lunardi: Louisville over Duke
Myron Medcalf: Louisville over Memphis
Dana O'Neil: Louisville over Duke
Robbi Pickeral: Louisville over Duke
Miles Simon: Missouri over Duke

[+] EnlargeTrevor Mbakwe
AP Photo/Jim MoneTrevor Mbakwe might be the best player on the court, but the Gophers will still have a tough task taking down Duke.
Don’t be surprised if…
... it feels like March when you watch this one. Easily the best tournament with a stacked field and loaded rosters, these games ought to be terrific. (O'Neil)
... Minnesota upsets Duke in the first round. (Medcalf)
... this is the best in-season tournament in years! (Lunardi)
... the title game goes to overtime -- maybe two. (Pickeral)
... VCU beats Memphis behind a swarming half-court defense that makes it hard for the Tigers to initiate offense. (Greenberg)
... best player in the tournament is Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe, who may have more upside than any player in the field. (Katz)
... Missouri wins this tourney and beats two top-5 teams along the way in Louisville and Duke. (Simon)
... teams that don't even make the title game of this tournament make deep runs in the bracket that counts in March. This is an incredibly stacked field. (Gasaway)

DIRECTV Classic (in Anaheim, Calif.)
Tournament bracket and Eamonn Brennan's primer

Brennan: Saint Mary's over Cal
Gasaway: Cal over Saint Mary's
Greenberg: Saint Mary's over Cal
Katz: Cal over Xavier
King: Saint Mary's over Cal
Lunardi: Cal over Saint Mary's
Medcalf: Saint Mary's over Cal
O'Neil: Saint Mary's over Cal
Pickeral: Cal over Drexel
Simon: Cal over Saint Mary's

Don’t be surprised if…
... Anaheim becomes "Bay Area south" for the DIRECTV title. (Lunardi)
... a frustrated and depleted Drexel clamps down and plays better than expected. (Medcalf)
... SMC's Stephen Holt and Matthew Dellavedova are the best backcourt in the tournament. (Greenberg)
... Drexel goes 0-3. The Dragons are reeling and just lost their best player Chris Fouch for the season. (Katz)
... Cal's Allen Crabbe puts himself on the national radar with an MVP performance. (Simon)
... even in a losing effort SMC pulls down some offensive boards during this tournament, thanks primarily to Brad Waldow and Kyle Rowley. (Gasaway)
... the Xavier that stymied Butler last week plays enough hard-nosed defense to win the whole thing. (Brennan)

Old Spice Classic (in Orlando, Fla.)
Tournament bracket and Robbi Pickeral's primer

Brennan: Gonzaga over West Virginia
Gasaway: Gonzaga over Davidson
Greenberg: Gonzaga over Davidson
Katz: Gonzaga over West Virginia
King: Gonzaga over West Virginia
Lunardi: Gonzaga over Davidson
Medcalf: Gonzaga over West Virginia
O'Neil: Gonzaga over West Virginia
Pickeral: Gonzaga over Davidson
Simon: Gonzaga over Davidson

Don’t be surprised if…
... the Zags beat the Mountaineers by double figures for the second time in less than a month. (King)
... Davidson's Jake Cohen leads the tournament in scoring. (Greenberg)
... the best game of the tournament is Gonzaga-Oklahoma. The Sooners are a legit sleeper in the Big 12. (Katz)
... Devin Booker and Elias Harris put up one of the better individual battles of this tournament. (O'Neil)
... Gonzaga wins every game by 10 points or more. (Simon)
... the Wildcats take the Zags down to the wire in the title game. Davidson sits at just 1-2 right now, but don't be fooled -- this is a deep and experienced roster. (Gasaway)
... if Oklahoma gives Gonzaga all it can handle in the second round. (Brennan)

Global Sports Classic (in Las Vegas)
Friday's semifinals: Cincinnati vs. Iowa State; Oregon at UNLV
Dana O'Neil's primer

Brennan: UNLV over Cincinnati
Gasaway: Cincinnati over UNLV
Greenberg: Cincinnati over Oregon
Katz: Cincinnati over UNLV
King: Cincinnati over UNLV
Lunardi: UNLV over Cincinnati
Medcalf: UNLV over Cincinnati
O'Neil: Cincinnati over UNLV
Pickeral: UNLV over Cincinnati
Simon: Cincinnati over UNLV

Don’t be surprised if…
... the Bearcats catapult into the top 15 next week after winning this one. (King)
... the home team uses this springboard to reach the top 10. (Lunardi)
... after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules, we hear UNLV sophomore Bryce Dejean-Jones’ name. A lot. (Pickeral)
... we find out that Anthony Bennett, not Mike Moser, is the best player on UNLV's roster. (Medcalf)
... Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick is the MVP. (Greenberg)
... Oregon's Arsalan Kazemi causes problems for the Rebels' frontcourt. (Katz)
... Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright put on their own show in Vegas and beat the Rebels on their home floor. (Simon)

Las Vegas Invitational
Friday's semifinals: Arkansas vs. Arizona State; Creighton vs. Wisconsin
Myron Medcalf's primer

Brennan: Creighton over Arkansas
Gasaway: Creighton over Arkansas
Greenberg: Creighton over Arizona State
Katz: Wisconsin over Arkansas
King: Creighton over Arkansas
Lunardi: Wisconsin over Arkansas
Medcalf: Creighton over Arizona State
O'Neil: Creighton over Arkansas
Pickeral: Creighton over Arkansas
Simon: Creighton over Arkansas

Don’t be surprised if…
... Arkansas' press gives Creighton fits in the title game. (King)
... the Badgers are the first (only?) team to stifle Creighton's Doug McDermott. (Lunardi)
... the player being talked about after the event is Arkansas' BJ Young for his overall impact and potential. (Katz)
... despite UW's stingy defense, Doug McDermott scores whenever he wants to. (O'Neil)
... Creighton needs overtime to finish off the Badgers. (Medcalf)
... Jahii Carson controls the tempo of the game and the ASU matchup zone keeps the Bluejays off balance. (Greenberg)
... BJ Young is the most exciting and best player on the floor at all times. He's an athletic scoring machine. (Simon)

Las Vegas Invitational primer

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
12:00
PM ET
The 2012 Las Vegas Invitational tournament is headlined by a Creighton squad that finished fifth in offensive efficiency last season. The Bluejays have cruised through the early portion of their nonconference season, registering scoring margins of 17 points or more in their first four games. But their path to the title demands an opening-round win over a Wisconsin squad that’s won back-to-back games since suffering an 18-point loss to Florida Nov. 14.

Arkansas is fourth in the nation with 91.3 points per game. But the undefeated Razorbacks haven’t been tested. Freshman Jahii Carson (17.5 ppg) has led Arizona State to three consecutive victories against average competition. How will he perform against better programs? We’ll see. This isn’t Feast Week’s most potent field, but with all of the question marks, it’s certainly an interesting and intriguing one.

The set matchups: Arizona State vs. Arkansas, 7 p.m. ET; Creighton vs. Wisconsin, 10 p.m.

The favorite: Creighton isn’t just the favorite because of Doug McDermott. The Bluejays have jumped more than 100 spots in defensive efficiency since last season (178 to 67). This season’s sample size is too small to make any definite assessments of the Bluejays’ defense, but they’re clearly more active than they were a year ago. The biggest concern about the 2012-13 season was the loss of former point guard Antoine Young, who graduated. But Grant Gibbs (5.0 apg) and Austin Chatman (5.8 apg) have been successful ball handlers for Greg McDermott’s team.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

[+] EnlargeJahii Carson
Rick Scuteri/US PresswireFreshman Jahii Carson has been the Sun Devils' leading scorer in their past two games.
Jahii Carson, Arizona State: The past calendar year of ASU basketball has been marked by turmoil. Trent Lockett, the team’s top scorer, transferred to Marquette during the offseason. Herb Sendek added new staff members. But Carson (18.7 ppg, 5.3 apg), a non-qualifier in 2011-12, has been a bright spot for a Sun Devils squad that won 10 games last season.

Doug McDermott, Creighton: The preseason All-American is averaging 16.8 ppg and 7.5 rpg. Those numbers are below last season’s averages of 22.9 ppg and 7.5 rpg. But he’s also playing on a more balanced team, and he’s been more active on defense -- both pluses for the program.

Ben Brust, Wisconsin: The Wisconsin backcourt took a hit when Josh Gasser tore his ACL during a preseason practice. But Brust’s effort thus far has taken out some of the sting. He’s averaging 14.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg and 2.5 apg. The 6-foot-1 guard also has connected on 78 percent of his free throws and 65 percent of his 3-pointers.

Marshawn Powell, Arkansas: Powell missed most of the 2011-12 season after tearing his ACL. He’s clearly recovered from the injury. Through three games, he’s averaging 17.0 ppg and 6.0 rpg.

Gregory Echenique, Creighton: Echenique is a vital component to Creighton’s postseason aspirations. The 6-9 center is the only true post man in Creighton’s rotation. The Bluejays can’t really afford many off-nights from Echenique, who’s averaging 11.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg and 2.0 blocks a game.

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS

Will we see another upset in Las Vegas? This has been a crazy Feast Week. In Maui, Division II Chaminade beat Texas and Butler upset North Carolina. In Brooklyn, Georgetown defeated UCLA and almost knocked off No. 1 Indiana. So it’s not really safe to assume that Creighton or Wisconsin will win this championship without a battle. Arizona State or Arkansas could continue the streak of unexpected results.

Can Creighton withstand a rough stretch from McDermott? That’s been the question about Creighton since last season. The Bluejays didn’t respond well when McDermott struggled in 2011-12. But the 2012-13 team has more versatility. So it’s more equipped to respond if McDermott doesn’t play well. He was 2-for-6 (five points) in a 77-60 victory Nov. 14 over UAB. But Ethan Wragge and Josh Jones scored 30 points combined off the bench.

Has Wisconsin answered the concerns about its point guard situation? Not yet. George Marshall, Traevon Jackson and Brust have all handled the ball for Wisconsin this season. But Bo Ryan’s system thrives when he has a playmaker at that position. Jackson and Marshall are solid distributors but Wisconsin will demand more from both going forward.

What’s Jahii Carson’s ceiling? Before he ever hit the floor, folks around the Arizona State program touted Carson’s potential impact. And he hasn’t disappointed. The athletic 5-10 guard can’t carry the Sun Devils alone. But his presence raises the prospects of the program. This tournament is a chance for Carson & Co. to prove that they’re capable of contending with high-level opponents, a rarity last season.

Does B.J. Young deserve more hype? The Arkansas sophomore hasn’t faced any elite squads this season but his numbers are impressive again. He’s averaging 17.5 ppg and he’s hit 50 percent of his field goal attempts in two games (he was suspended for the season opener). Creighton should win this tournament. Wisconsin could. But Young and Powell could spoil those plans.

THE PICKS

Friday: Creighton over Wisconsin; Arkansas over Arizona State
Saturday's title game: Creighton over Arkansas
When and where: Nov. 23-24 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas

Semifinal schedule for the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational
Nov. 23: Arizona State vs. Arkansas (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3); Creighton vs. Wisconsin (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Nov. 24: Third-place game (8 p.m. ET, ESPN3); championship game (11 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Initial thoughts: The bracket is lopsided. Creighton and Wisconsin are clearly the two best teams and this field wasn’t seeded correctly, in my opinion. ... Creighton has the star of the four-team event with rising junior Doug McDermott. McDermott will be the best player on the court in either game. ... Arizona State finally gets to put sophomore Jahii Carson on the national stage. He was held out last season due to academics. He’s expected to be eligible, which means the Sun Devils finally get their star recruit on the court. ... Wisconsin has a potential stud in freshman Sam Dekker, who will be a big-time scorer for the Badgers before his career is over. ... Arkansas has another offseason to get Mike Anderson’s fastest 40-minutes system. The Hogs were an erratic bunch in his first year. This will be a good test to see where they stand. ... Badgers fans traditionally travel well to Las Vegas. Creighton has a loyal following from Omaha as well. Don’t be surprised to see the second game with the most fans in the arena.

[+] EnlargeDoug McDermott
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesForward Doug McDermott led Creighton last season with almost 23 points per game.
Matchup I can't wait to see: Well, the organizers apparently wanted to make sure the best game occurred in pitting Creighton against Wisconsin. The Bluejays have the more efficient offensive team, while the Badgers should be a more stingy defensive unit. Expect this game to be played tight and down to the final few possessions.

Potential matchup I'd like to see: It would be interesting to find out how McDermott handles a team that wants to push the tempo as much as Arkansas. McDermott will have to deal with plenty of quicker defensive teams throughout the season, but maybe not one as pestering as the Hogs. This would be a quality test for the Bluejays if Creighton can get past the Badgers.

Key players to watch

Jahii Carson, Arizona State: The Sun Devils struggled to shoot and score last season. Carson’s absence didn’t help. Coach Herb Sendek said Carson has done well in offseason workouts and has shown his quickness, leadership and scoring potential. The Sun Devils desperately need Carson to be a James Harden-type performer to help them climb out of the bottom of the conference.

Ryan Evans, Wisconsin: Evans is the classic Bo Ryan Badger. He continued to improve as he matured, got stronger and received more opportunities. Evans went from 2.8 points to 11 as his minutes increased 20-plus a game. He will never be a star, but he has a shot to be an All-Big Ten performer with his knack for making big-time buckets in opportune moments. He knows the Ryan system as well as any player on the team.

Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott averaged 22.9 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. He has found ways to score all over the court. He’s a potential preseason first-team All-American and national player of the year candidate. Enough said.

BJ Young, Arkansas: Kentucky freshman Antonio Davis dominated the headlines in the SEC. A top-three pick in Bradley Beal at Florida also got his share of attention. But Young had a fantastic freshman season for Arkansas that essentially got overlooked. He averaged 15.3 points and 2.3 assists a game. If the Hogs are to be a problem in the SEC, Young will be the reason.

Title-game prediction

Creighton over Arkansas: Wisconsin will be a tough out once the Big Ten hits, but the Bluejays should be the most experienced and ready team for an early-season, neutral-site tournament. Creighton will need this title more than any other team, too. The opportunities simply aren’t as plentiful for the Jays. This team won 29 games last season and lost one major player in Antoine Young. The rest of the crew came back for what should be another Missouri Valley Conference title season and a possible deeper run in the NCAA tournament, a campaign that will start with a Las Vegas Invitational title.

Who others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: Wisconsin over Arkansas
Jason King: Creighton over Arkansas
Myron Medcalf: Wisconsin over Arkansas
Dana O'Neil: Creighton over Arkansas

Video: Rebels run past struggling USC

November, 25, 2011
11/25/11
11:12
PM ET

In the semifinals of the Las Vegas Invitational, UNLV moved to 6-0 with a 66-55 win over struggling USC, which fell to 2-4 on the season.

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