The DIRECTV Classic may not be the most prestigious of the early-season tournaments, but that doesn't mean this year's version lacks intriguing teams or potentially compelling matchups.
There is a Drexel team that some believe was robbed of a tournament berth a season ago and will be looking to recompense with a few early-season wins to pad the resume. There is a Cal team expected to make noise in the Pac-12 season.
There is Xavier, a team that always seems to have something to say come March. And let's not forget about Saint Mary's, ever the threat out of the WCC.
And those are just the favorites. Let's take a closer look at this year's DIRECTV Classic.
Where: Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA
When: Thursday, November 22 to Sunday, November 25
Watch: ESPNU, ESPN2; ESPN3
Teams, Bracket and Schedule (All Times Eastern)
|1||1st||Pacific vs. Xavier||Nov. 22||2 p.m.||ESPNU|
|2||1st||Drexel vs. Saint Mary's||Nov. 22||4:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|3||1st||Rice vs. Georgia Tech||Nov. 22||9 p.m.||ESPNU|
|4||1st||Drake vs. Cal||Nov. 22||11:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|5||Semifinals||Winner 1 vs. Winner 2||Nov. 23||3:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|6||Semifinals||Winner 3 vs. Winner 4||Nov. 23||12 a.m.||ESPN2|
|7||2nd (Consolation)||Loser 1 vs. Loser 2||Nov. 23||6 p.m.||ESPNU|
|8||2nd (Consolation)||Loser 3 vs. Loser 4||Nov. 23||9:30 p.m.||ESPNU|
|9||5th Place Game||Winner 7 vs. Winner 8||Nov. 25||1:30 p.m.||ESPNU|
|10||7th Place Game||Loser 7 vs. Loser 8||Nov. 25||4 p.m.||ESPN3|
|11||3rd Place Game||Loser 5 vs. Loser 6||Nov. 25||6:30 p.m.||ESPNU|
|12||Championship||Winner 5 vs. Winner 6||Nov. 25||9 p.m.||ESPN2|
What's At Stake?
Only the prestigious honor of winning a historical tournament like the DIRECTV Classic. More to the point, for teams like Drexel, Saint Mary's and Cal, these are all potentially key resume wins come the NCAA tournament selection.
What They're Saying
Dana O'Neil of ESPN offers a primer on a few of the more intriguing teams in this year's tournament:
On the surface, this isn’t a very sexy tournament but there are some intriguing teams here to keep an eye on. Now that VCU and Old Dominion have bolted, most everyone agrees that the CAA is Drexel’s league to lose this season. Still, Bruiser Flint knows well the need to build up a nonconference resume and wins here would help.
I’m really curious to see what Xavier is all about after last year’s turbulent season. Mark Lyons is gone, which could be a good thing for the Musketeers. A terrific player, he was a handful to coach and while losing him, plus Tu Holloway, hurts in the scoring column, Xavier might be better off in the long run parting ways with Lyons.
California should be among the better teams in the potentially resurgent Pac-12, but has to adjust to losing Jorge Gutierrez.
Most Important Player to Watch: Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's
Last year's WCC Player of the Year is off to a strong start again this season, averaging 16.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists for the Gaels in three games.
Dellavedova has been a major force for the team since his freshman season, when he averaged 12.1 points and 4.5 assists. One aspect of his game that looks truly improved thus far this season is his three-point shooting, as he's hitting on 45 percent (9-for-20) of his shots beyond the arc.
As Dellavedova goes, so go the Gaels. He'll have a tough opener against Drexel's solid defense, however, and will need to step up early if Saint Mary's is to stand a chance at winning this tournament.
Drexel facing Saint Mary's to open the tournament should be a doozy, but the Gaels will score just enough to push past the gritty Dragons. Xavier, Georgia Tech and Cal will join them in the semifinals, where the talented Gaels and Bears will survive.
Saint Mary's will have traversed the more difficult road to get into the championship, but no team in the tournament has two scorers like the dynamic duo that Cal boasts in Allen Crabbe (26.7 PPG) and Justin Cobbs (20.7 PPG).
For that reason, Cal will be your 2012 DIRECTV Classic champions.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets predict crazy things like Baylor upsets. Seriously.
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