College Basketball

Las Vegas Invitational 2013: Biggest Stars to Watch at Anticipated Event

Dec 18, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA;   UCLA Bruins guard Jordan Adams (3) heads down court after a 3-point basket in the first half of the game against the Long Beach State 49ers at Pauley Pavilion.  Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2013

The Las Vegas Invitational features four teams looking to do damage in their respective conferences, but it is the stars that will make this event a thrill to watch. 

This two-day showcase is not exactly a tournament, but instead an event where each team plays two games that are already scheduled. While this takes away some of the drama from declaring a winner, there will still be four excellent battles. 

There are plenty of reasons to watch, but these stars make it worth viewing every second of the action.

 

Drew Crawford, Northwestern

Dec 4, 2011; Evanston, IL, USA; Northwestern Wildcats guard/forward Drew Crawford (1) shoots over Baylor Bears forward Quincy Acy (4) during the first half at Welsh-Ryan Arena.  Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

There might not be a more versatile player in the Big Ten than Drew Crawford. The senior was able to return for a fifth season after suffering a torn labrum last year, and he is ready to make it count.

The wing leads Northwestern with 16.3 points and eight rebounds per game while also hitting 50 percent of his shots from behind the arc. He can score in many ways, which makes it incredibly difficult for opponents to slow him down.

Northwestern will have to rely on a lot of contributions from freshmen and sophomores this season, so it needs a veteran presence to take over when necessary. Crawford provides that as a go-to scorer and leader on and off the floor.

 

Jordan Clarkson, Missouri

Nov 16, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers guard Jordan Clarkson (5) dribbles the ball as Hawaii Warriors guard Keith Shamburger (0) defends during the first half of the game at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou has a lot of dynamic players on its roster, from the elite shooting of Jabari Brown to the low-post strength of Johnathan Williams.

However, Jordan Clarkson might be the most exciting player to watch on the team.

The Tulsa transfer averaged 16.5 points per game two seasons ago before making the move to Missouri. After sitting out last season, the Tigers are now seeing what they have been missing with his great slashing ability to score against anyone.

Clarkson is averaging 18.8 points per game to start the year despite still not shooting well from the outside. When the shots start to fall, he can be even better.

The talented player knows how to finish inside and can seemingly get into the lane whenever he wants. When he is not scoring himself, he is creating for teammates, averaging a team-high 3.6 assists per game.

As he gets more comfortable in the lineup, he has a chance to be one of the best players in the Big 12.

 

Deonte Burton, Nevada

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 14:  Deonte Burton #24 of the Nevada Reno Wolf Pack brings the ball up the court against the UNLV Rebels during their game at the Thomas & Mack Center November 14, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 71-67.  (Photo by Ethan Miller
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After three impressive years with Nevada, Deonte Burton is set to take over in his senior season. The guard currently ranks 12th in the country with an average of 24.5 points per game, although this only tells part of the story.

The fact is that Burton has been an all-around star for Nevada, playing almost every minute of games while going hard on both ends of the court. He plays active defense that helps him grab two steals per game, while he excels on offense based on his efficient scoring.

As he continues to put up big individual numbers, he will draw more attention from defenses, which will lead to more production out of Michael Perez, Cole Huff and others.

Of course, Burton will need this help around him after the Wolf Pack's 3-3 start.

 

Jordan Adams, UCLA

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 28: Jordan Adams #3 of the UCLA Bruins celebrates at the end of regulation after UCLA cam back to force overtime against the Missouri Tigers at Pauley Pavilion on December 28, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  UCLA won 97-94 in
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Due to the great freshman class in college basketball, sophomores all over the country have been virtually ignored.

Marcus Smart is clearly showing that he is among the best players in the sport, but Jordan Adams is another member of this class who deserves more respect.

The UCLA guard has solid size for his position and uses it to get into the lane whenever he wants. From there, he can finish with a jump shot or continue all the way to the rim and finish with a big dunk.

Still, his on-ball defense might be his best attribute, as he can shut down an opponent's best player. His 3.4 steals per game ranks fifth in the nation and he will give Burton a lot of trouble on Thursday.

Adams ranks 35th in the current draft board of ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required) and is certain to keep moving up throughout the season. He will likely turn more heads than anyone else at the Las Vegas Invitational.

 

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