Looking ahead to six holiday tournaments

August, 4, 2009
Here's a quick glance at the early-season tournaments either owned by ESPN or in partnership with ESPN that announced their pairings Tuesday. For a working list of all the events that will make up the first couple of months of the 2009-10 season, click here.

O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off (San Juan, P.R.)
Nov. 19, 20 and 22

Top half: Dayton vs. Georgia Tech, George Mason vs. Villanova
Bottom half: Indiana vs. Ole Miss, Boston U. vs. Kansas State

Projected NCAA teams: Dayton, Georgia Tech, Villanova and Kansas State
Bubble: Ole Miss

Five key storylines:
• High-profile Georgia Tech freshman Derrick Favors makes his nationally televised debut.
• Atlantic 10 favorite Dayton gets a chance to do what Xavier did a year ago and jump-start the season with a Puerto Rico title.
• The stellar backcourt of Ole Miss is on display as Terrico White and rehabbed guard Chris Warren are together again for the first time in nearly a year.
• Kansas State's Denis Clemente begins his campaign to be the top player in the Big 12 and lead the Wildcats to the NCAAs.
• Second-year Indiana coach Tom Crean gets Georgetown transfer Jeremiah Rivers eligible and begins the quest back to relevance.

Charleston Classic (Charleston, S.C.)
Nov. 19, 20 and 22

Top half: Tulane vs. Miami, UNC Wilmington vs. Penn State
Bottom half: South Florida vs. Davidson, La Salle vs. South Carolina

Projected NCAA teams: South Carolina
Bubble: Penn State, Miami and possibly La Salle

Five key storylines:
• Davidson starts the season without Stephen Curry for the first time in three years.
• Penn State junior point guard Talor Battle had a stellar trip with the U.S. at the World University Games in Serbia last month. He has a shot to finally get the Nittany Lions back to the NCAAs, beginning with this event.
• Miami debuts the much-heralded freshman guard Durand Scott, a player who could replace Jack McClinton's scoring rather quickly.
• South Carolina could be a trendy pick to cause some anxious moments for Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC East with the return of Devan Downey and Dominique Archie. This should be the Gamecocks' tournament to win.
• La Salle, led by senior guard Rodney Green, plays South Carolina in the first round, and the majority of A-10 coaches say the Explorers could be the sleeper pick in the league title race.

Maui Invitational (Maui, Hawaii)
Nov. 23-25

Top half: Chaminade vs. Maryland, Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt
Bottom half: Colorado vs. Gonzaga, Arizona vs. Wisconsin

Projected NCAA teams: Maryland, Cincinnati, Vanderbilt and Gonzaga
Bubble: Arizona and Wisconsin

Five key storylines:
• Cincinnati puts the much-anticipated national-television debut of freshman Lance Stephenson on display.
• New Arizona coach Sean Miller offers the Wildcats stability, a stellar scoring guard in Nic Wise and a highly touted class of newcomers dominated by former USC commits.
• Maryland returns eight of its top nine players, including one of the best point guards in the country in Greivis Vasquez. The Terps should be the pick to win the event.
• Vanderbilt, like South Carolina, is a trendy pick to cause unrest in the SEC East. The Commodores bring back Australian big man A.J. Ogilvy. There won't be another big man who can match his scoring prowess in this field.
• Gonzaga still has the scoring pop on the perimeter to be an NCAA team, with Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray and Demetri Goodson. The Bulldogs have historically done well in November tournaments.

76 Classic (Anaheim, Calif.)
Nov. 26, 27 and 29

Top half: West Virginia vs. Long Beach State, Texas A&M vs. Clemson
Bottom half: Minnesota vs. Butler, Portland vs. UCLA

Projected NCAA teams: West Virginia, Clemson, Minnesota, Butler and UCLA
Bubble: Texas A&M
Possible conference champ and automatic-bid recipient: Long Beach State (Big West)

Five key storylines:
• Butler's Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack led the U.S. Under-19 team to a gold medal in New Zealand. Add Matt Howard and one could argue the Bulldogs are the favorites to win this event.
• UCLA still has talent teams would gladly raid, led by Malcolm Lee. But this is the first major test for a squad no longer relying on Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya.
• West Virginia is a Big East title contender with Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks, but two possible point guards -- Darryl Bryant and Joe Mazzulla -- are currently indefinitely suspended.
• Minnesota was a surprise NCAA team a year ago in Tubby Smith's second season. Now the Gophers will be expected to be league contenders.
• Clemson's Trevor Booker is one of the fiercest rebounders returning, a rock for Oliver Purnell inside and a possible ACC Player of the Year candidate. He can start the campaign in this event. Ironically, former USC signee Noel Johnson will make his Tigers debut in the L.A. area.

Old Spice Classic (Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)
Nov. 26, 27 and 29

Top half: Creighton vs. Michigan, Marquette vs. Xavier
Bottom half: Alabama vs. Baylor, Florida State vs. Iona

Projected NCAA teams: Michigan and Xavier
Bubble: Florida State

Five key storylines:
• Michigan hasn't had this much preseason hype since the Fab Five. The Wolverines aren't even close to that talent level, but there is actual anticipation that they'll get back to the Dance for consecutive seasons as Manny Harris leads John Beilein's crew.
• New Xavier coach Chris Mack makes his national-TV debut. The Musketeers get Jordan Crawford eligible. You may have heard of Crawford. The former Indiana guard had an overhyped dunk that was in the vicinity of LeBron James last month.
• Florida State is sans Toney Douglas but still has one of the underpublicized special talents in Solomon Alabi.
• Anthony Grant takes over at Alabama and can make a solid first impression with a strong showing for the Tide. JaMychal Green should be ready to blossom as a sophomore forward.
• Marquette coach Buzz Williams had pressure on him to deliver a stellar recruiting class after losing Wes Matthews, Dominic James and Jerel McNeal. He did, with a seven-player haul led by point guard Junior Cadougan. This class is expected to lead the program for the next few seasons.

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Dec. 22, 23 and 25

Top half: Northeastern vs. Saint Mary's, Western Michigan vs. USC
Bottom half: SMU vs. UNLV, Charleston vs. Hawaii

Projected NCAA teams: None
Bubble: Northeastern, UNLV, USC and Charleston

Five key storylines:
• Kevin O'Neill will have had a month to establish an identity at USC. The Trojans are likely to arrive on the island as a defensive-minded team with North Carolina transfer Alex Stepheson as the insurance close to the rim.
• Saint Mary's begins its post-Patty Mills era with more Australians. Three of the four newcomers are from Down Under, and all three are expected to contribute.
• Northeastern flamed out late in the Colonial Athletic Association season after racing to first place. The Huskies return top scorers Matt Janning and Manny Adako in their quest to finish 2010 with a CAA title.
• UNLV lost two of its top three scorers but returns Tre'Von Willis. Lon Kruger has been in the thick of the MWC race since he arrived in Vegas. Somehow he'll find a way again, and a march toward the league title begins in this event.
• Charleston was upset by Chattanooga in the Southern Conference tournament title game last season. But after winning 27 games, Bobby Cremins has the Cougars poised for another run at a conference title. Charleston returns its two top scorers in Andrew Goudelock and Tony White, Jr.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN.com Senior Writer




You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?