The 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer tournament tips off the 2008-09 college basketball season at four o'clock.
Since its inception in 1995, the tournament has changed dramatically. The National Association of Basketball Coaches teamed up with the American Cancer Society to organize a four team doubleheader that would help raise cancer awareness.
Now, the tournament consists of 16 teams, two regional rounds, and semifinals and finals at Madison Square Garden in New York.
This season, UCLA, Duke, Southern Illinois, and Michigan are the hosts of the four regions, and the bracket is set to favor a Duke vs. UCLA championship.
Duke and UCLA should make it to New York easily.
Presbyterian and Houston or Georgia Southern stand in Duke's path north, while Prairie View A&M and Miami Ohio or Weber State try to keep UCLA in California.
Houston lost its two best players in Rob McKiver and Dion Dowell, so they are not as strong as they were last season. However, they should beat Georgia Southern.
Southern Illinois and UMass should each roll over their non-Division I opponents, and square off against each other in their regional final.
Southern Illinois is the favorite to advance to New York. Neither the Salukis nor the Minutemen return their top talent from last season, but Southern Illinois is at home and has two highly touted recruits in Kevin Dillard and Anthony Booker.
UMass has a scorer in Ricky Harris, a good point guard in Chris Lowe, and a highly rated freshman point guard in David Gibbs. However, without Gary Forbes, they are not as strong going into Southern Illinois.
Don't be surprised if you see the winner of Northeastern vs. IUPUI advance past Michigan and on to New York.
Northeastern was picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association, and they return their top nine scorers from last season. Without George Hill and Austin Montgomery, IUPUI does not pose much of a threat to Northeastern.
Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims return Michigan's top offensive talent, but the Wolverines are not very deep offensively and will be beaten by Northeastern.
At a neutral site like the Garden, anything can happen, but UCLA should roll by Northeastern, and Duke should be able to handle Southern Illinois.
Ben Howland brought in one of the best recruiting classes of all time, with five recruits who could probably start on any team in the country. The freshmen, along with UCLA's remaining experience in Darren Collison and Josh Shipp, will beat Duke in the championship.
Georgia Southern vs. Houston starts the season at 4 p.m. this afternoon.
The rest of the bracket can be found here.