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College Basketball: Ranking the Best Preseason Tournaments

Ryan SatskyContributor IIIDecember 24, 2016

College Basketball: Ranking the Best Preseason Tournaments

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    While annual early season tournaments may have minimal effect on postseason play, they do possess a major form of significance for us fans.

    For loyal college basketball fanatics, the offseason is a time of sadness. When the calendar hits the middle of November, one thing is certain.

    College hoops season has officially arrived.

    The Maui Invitational and Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic are both household names, but neither sits atop this list of the 10 best preseason tournaments.

10. Coaches vs. Cancer Classic

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    Preliminary Rounds: Campus Sites

    Semifinals and Finals: Barclays Center, New York, NY

    Regional Hosts: BYU, Florida State, Notre Dame, Saint Joseph's

    Visiting Teams: TBD

    Players To Watch: Brandon Davies (BYU), Michael Snaer (Florida State), Jack Cooley (Notre Dame), C.J. Aiken (Saint Joseph's)

    Prediction: The final four teams who will play in New York City are practically already decided in this tournament—and those four teams make for some really good competition.

    My pick to win the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic is Florida State. While inexperience in the low post will be a challenge for the Seminoles initially, veteran leadership in the backcourt from Ian Miller and Michael Snaer should put the 'Noles on top.

    Saint Joseph's is an interesting bubble team who will surprise some people in a loaded Atlantic-10 this season. Carl Jones and CJ Aiken form one of the scariest guard-forward combos in the nation.

    BYU and Notre Dame both have legitimate chances at winning this tournament as well. BYU lost some firepower with the graduations of Charles Abouo and Noah Hartsock, but look for Matt Carlino to step up as a premier mid-major guard.

    Notre Dame didn't really lose anyone important from its NCAA tournament roster a season ago. Jack Cooley could potentially take home Big East Player of the Year honors in the Irish's last season in that conference.

9. 2K Sports Classic

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    Preliminary Rounds: Campus Sites

    Semifinals and Finals: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

    Regional Hosts: Villanova, Purdue, Alabama, Oregon State

    Visiting Teams: Bucknell, Hofstra, Marshall, New Mexico State, Niagara, South Dakota State, Northern New Mexico, UDC, West Alabama

    Players To Watch: Mouphtaou Yarou (Villanova), DJ Byrd (Purdue), Devonta Pollard (Alabama), Devon Collier (Oregon State), Nate Wolters (South Dakota State), DeAndre Kane (Marshall)

    Prediction: The visiting teams in the 2K Sports Classic are actually pretty talented, but the four regional hosts will end up showcasing their squads at MSG.

    Purdue and Alabama will be bubble teams as March rolls along, and both will need resume-building wins here. My pick to win this tournament is Alabama, who boasts the high-powered duo of junior Trevor Releford and freshman Devonta Pollard.

    Purdue loses significant contributions with the graduations of Biolermaker great Robbie Hummel and guard Lewis Jackson. DJ Byrd needs to step up and become the star of this Boilermakers squad.

    Villanova is experiencing a down period, but Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault should help the Wildcats recover. Oregon State lost its superstar, NBA first-round pick Jared Cunningham, and will definitely feel that absence early on.

8. Global Sports Classic

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    Preliminary Rounds: Campus Sites

    Semifinals and Finals: Las Vegas, NV

    Regional Hosts: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Oregon, UNLV

    Visiting Teams: Campbell, Jacksonville State, Northern Arizona, North Carolina A&T

    Players To Watch: Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), Korie Lucious (Iowa State), E.J. Singler (Oregon), Mike Moser (UNLV)

    Prediction: The four regional hosts will be heading out to Las Vegas, with UNLV emerging victorious.

    While the Rebels won't have Khem Birch quite yet, there is no player in this tournament who will be able to contain UNLV forward Mike Moser on the glass.

    Cincinnati and Iowa State both have talented rosters, but I don't trust either team without its respective star player from last season.

    The Bearcats possess frontcourt depth, but none of those players are as talented as Yancy Gates. Royce White from Iowa State may be the most irreplaceable piece from any team, and he's currently in the NBA.

    Oregon lost more assets from its team than any of the other teams in this field, and its not even close. In particular, replacing high-level scorer Devoe Joseph is going to be an arduous task.

7. Diamond Head Classic

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    All Rounds: Honolulu, HI

    Teams: Arizona, Ole Miss, Miami, San Diego State, San Francisco, East Tennessee State, Indiana State, Hawaii

    Players To Watch: Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona), Nick Williams (Ole Miss), Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State), Reggie Johnson (Miami)

    Prediction: This tournament features two teams who will surely be ranked in the preseason Top 25 in Arizona and San Diego State, but neither of those teams are my pick to win the Diamond Head Classic.

    Miami's versatility and size will astonish many as the Hurricanes showcase their talents in Honolulu. The Canes' frontcourt consists of nearly 550 pounds of body weight between hefty Reggie Johnson and inside-outside threat Kenny Kadji.

    Arizona comes in with a top-three recruiting class in addition to battle-tested point guard Mark Lyons, a transfer from Xavier. I don't doubt that the Wildcats will live up to their lofty expectations, but not this early with so many inexperienced players.

    San Diego State typically falls under the radar and resurfaces around the turn of the calendar year, but that won't be the case this year. Nonetheless, I just don't see Jamaal Franklin and co. with the depth to knock off Miami.

    Ole Miss could fight it's way towards bubble consideration later this season, but the Rebels' roster doesn't contain the firepower to come out on top in Hawaii.

6. Old Spice Classic

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    All Rounds: HP Fieldhouse, Orlando, Fl

    Teams: Clemson, Davidson, Gonzaga, Marist, Oklahoma, UTEP, Vanderbilt, West Virginia

    Players to Watch: Milton Jennings (Clemson), De'Mon Brooks (Davidson), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Sam Grooms (Oklahoma), Kedren Johnson (Vanderbilt), Aaric Murray (West Virginia)

    Prediction: While the Old Spice Classic certainly has a deep field of teams, Gonzaga is more talented than any of its competitors in Orlando.

    The 'Zags have one of the nation's top backcourts in Gary Bell and Kevin Pangos. And aside from West Virginia's Aaric Murray, I don't see anyone in this field who will even be able to slightly manage Gonzaga's interior of Sam Dower and Elias Harris.

    Some other teams to watch are Davidson, West Virginia, Clemson and Oklahoma.

    Davidson has a deadly one-two punch with forwards De'Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen.

    West Virginia lost a lot of talent from last season's NCAA tournament squad, but Aaric Murray and Deniz Kilicli form possibly the most physical frontcourt in the land.

    Oklahoma has a star in the making with pass-first point guard Sam Grooms, but the Sooners aren't quite ready to compete with the likes of Gonzaga.

    Clemson is sturdy in the frontcourt with Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, but suspect guard play will plague the Tigers' season.

5. NIT Season Tip-off

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    Preliminary Rounds: Campus Sites

    Semifinals and Finals: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

    Regional Hosts: Kansas State, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Virginia

    Visiting Teams: Bowling Green, Cleveland State, Delaware, Fairfield, Fordham, Lamar, North Texas, Robert Morris

    Players To Watch: Rodney McGruder (Kansas State), Trey Burke (Michigan), Tony Mitchell (North Texas), Tray Woodall (Pittsburgh), Joe Harris (Virginia)

    Prediction: Like many of the early season tournaments, the semifinalists are already set in stone. It will be the four teams listed as regional hosts above.

    Michigan, led by the dynamic duo of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke, is my favorite to hoist the hardware in New York City. They will also be showcasing top freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson Jr. for the first time.

    Kansas State boasts serious upset potential. Rodney McGruder is one of the top pure scorers in the nation. Jordan Henriquez is one of the top offensive rebounders in the land as well.

    Pittsburgh and Virginia will be the underdogs. Pittsburgh lost Ashton Gibbs, but returns PG Tray Woodall and welcomes top-five recruit Steven Adams, a 6'11" center from New Zealand.

    Virginia lost their two biggest producers in Mike Scott and Sammy Zeglinski, but return starter Joe Harris and bring in 4-star recruit Justin Anderson.

4. Puerto Rico Tip-off

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    All Rounds: San Juan, PR

    Teams: Akron, UMass, NC State, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Providence, Southern Miss, Tennessee

    Players to Watch: Chaz Williams (UMass), Zeke Marshall (Akron), CJ Leslie (NC State), LeBryan Nash (Oklahoma State), Tim Frazier (Penn State), Vincent Council (Providence), Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee)

    Prediction: NC State, led by returning stars and incoming studs, is looking at a preseason top-10 ranking. The Wolfpack are my favorite to win the Puerto Rico Tip-off because of their unmatchable point guard depth. NC State has two starting-caliber point guards in Lorenzo Brown and Tyler Lewis.

    Tennessee and Oklahoma State have legitimate shots to finish on top in this tournament as well. Jarnell Stokes of Tennessee is a true SEC Player of the Year candidate. LeBryan Nash of Oklahoma State should come out the gate strong after an uninspiring freshman season.

    Southern Miss and UMass could surprise from the mid-majors and make a statement in Puerto Rico as well. UMass has one of the top point guards in the nation in Chaz Williams.

    Southern Miss returns some key pieces from a team that garnered a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament last year.

3. Maui Invitational

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    All Rounds: Lahaina, HI

    Teams: Butler, Chaminade, Illinois, Marquette, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Texas, USC

    Players to Watch: Rotnei Clarke (Butler), Trent Lockett (Marquette), Brandon Paul (Illinois), James McAdoo (North Carolina), Myck Kabongo (Texas), Jio Fontan (USC)

    Prediction: The sexy pick here is North Carolina, but watch out for Texas. The Longhorns are my favorite to win the storied Maui Invitational. Myck Kabongo struggled as a freshman behind trigger-happy J'Covan Brown, but should shine in the spotlight.

    However, you can never count out the Tar Heels. James McAdoo is poised to breakout and they also feature an incredibly deep backcourt.

    Brandon Paul of Illinois can take over a game at anytime, like he did when he hit for 43 points against Ohio State last season.

    Butler and Marquette's chances depend on their talented transfers. After sitting out one year, Rotnei Clarke joins Butler and looks to add some needed scoring for the Bulldogs. Marquette receives Trent Lockett, a talented wing from Arizona State who will not have to sit out this year due to a hardship waiver he received.

2. Legends Classic

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    Preliminary Rounds: Campus Sites

    Semifinals and Finals: Barclays Center, New York, NY

    Regional Hosts: Georgetown, Georgia, Indiana, UCLA

    Visiting Teams: UC Irvine, Duquesne, James Madison, Liberty, North Dakota State, Sam Houston State

    Players to Watch: Otto Porter (Georgetown), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Cody Zeller (Indiana), Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)

    Prediction: Again, the semifinalists will be the regional hosts listed above. The two favorites are traditional college basketball powers ready to cement a return to major prominence—UCLA and Indiana.

    As much as UCLA's freshman class impresses me, Indiana is the pick here. Cody Zeller is super talented and Christian Watford will evolve into a household name by season's end.

    UCLA welcomes the best recruiting class in the nation to add to its core of Joshua Smith, Norman Powell and Larry Drew. The star power of freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson give them a serious chance to upset the Hoosiers.

    Georgia will be improved with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope entering his sophomore campaign.

    Georgetown lost Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark, but Otto Porter could be the next Hoya superstar. However, neither of these teams really stand a chance to knock off Indiana or UCLA.

1. Battle 4 Atlantis

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    All Rounds: Atlantis Resort, Bahamas

    Teams: Duke, Louisville, Memphis, Minnesota, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Stanford, VCU

    Players to Watch: Mason Plumlee (Duke), Peyton Siva (Louisville), Adonis Thomas (Memphis), Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota), Phil Pressey (Missouri), Chasson Randle (Stanford), Juvonte Reddic (VCU)

    Prediction: Aside from Northern Iowa, the talent level in Atlantis will be stacked from top to bottom.

    In a major shocker, my pick to win the Battle 4 Atlantis is VCU. Shaka Smart knows how to do well in tournaments. In addition to the Final Four run in 2011, the Rams have won the CAA two straight years and also won two games in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

    Juvonte Reddic and Rob Brandenburg headline an experienced squad. The Rams lost Bradford Burgess to graduation, but add his brother, Jordan.

    Louisville is easily the most talented team in the field and could definitely take the Atlantis championship back to the bluegrass state. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng are All-American caliber players.

    Duke and Memphis are top-20 teams who could make a run for the Atlantis title as well.

    Missouri, Minnesota and Stanford are all sleepers. Missouri welcomes Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi and Pepperdine transfer Keion Bell. The Tigers also return star guards Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon.

    Minnesota gets stud power forward Trevor Mbakwe back from an ACL injury, and Stanford is the reigning NIT Champion.

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