While millions of Americans suffered through several football blowouts on Turkey Day, two early season tournaments got under way with a terrific slate of action in the college basketball world. The Old Spice Classic, hosted in Disney's Wide World of Sports, and the 76 Classic, played in Anaheim, California, both feature some of the top teams in the country.
Maryland notched a decisive upset victory over No. 6-ranked Michigan State in the Old Spice Classic by a score of 80-62. The Terps jumped out to a lead in the first half before watching the Spartans regain the lead early in the second half. Then Maryland took over midway through the first half and cruised to a victory down the stretch.
Maryland was led by junior guard Greivis Vasquez and senior forward Dave Neal, who each contributed 17 points.
Don't be too quick to jump to conclusions about the Terrapins though. Getting wins against top competition has not been the problem for Gary Williams' squad in recent years, as they have posted several victories over the likes of Duke and UNC. Maryland is undefeated on the season, but how they fare against the average teams in the ACC will determine what kind of success they will have this year.
Michigan State also played the game without their leading rebounder, Goran Suton. The Spartans, renowned for their rebounding prowess, only won the rebounding battle by a count of 35-33 against Maryland.
The day's other major surprise came early in the day when UTEP defeated Saint Mary's by a score of 75-62. The Miners took a 23-point lead after a 10-0 run to open the second half and never looked back after that.
It is probably no coincidence that the two major upsets on the day featured star players that were quieted on either losing team.
Michigan State forward Raymar Morgan was held to four points in only 14 minutes of play after getting in some foul trouble against Maryland. Morgan was averaging 21.5 points per game on the season.
UTEP also held Saint Mary's star guard Patrick Mills to a poor shooting night. Mills, a sophomore starting to receive national recognition, was able to muster 16 points, but shot 5-20 from the field and 0-6 from three-point range.
Several other teams favored to win their first round games in their respective tournaments had games closer than planned, but were able to walk away with victories.
Tennessee thwarted a second half comeback from Siena to win 78-64.
Georgetown connected on all eight of their free throws down the stretch to hold off Wichita State by a count of 58-50.
Gonzaga used a strong second half to move past Oklahoma State 83-71.
Wake Forest held off a talented Cal St. Fullerton squad by a score of 75-69.
In Cal-St. Fullerton's loss to Wake Forest, senior guard Josh Akognon put up 24 points, right on his average for the season. Fullerton made the NCAA tournament last season out of the Big West and will be looking to make a serious run at a first-round upset if they can return this year.
Gonzaga showed incredible balance on offense in their defeat of Oklahoma State. Five different players scored in double-digits, and senior guard Micah Downs recorded a double-double by pulling in 13 rebounds to go with his 17 points.
The action in today's opening rounds set up some even better matchups for Friday.
In the Old Spice Classic, No. 12-ranked Tennessee will battle No. 16-ranked Georgetown in a battle of undefeated teams from power conferences. In the other semifinal, Maryland will get a chance at another upset of a top-10 team as they take on No. 10-ranked Gonzaga.
The consolation game between Michigan State and Oklahoma State will also be an interesting matchup, as neither team will want to come away from the tournament with two losses.
In the 76 Classic, UTEP will look to test No. 24-ranked Wake Forest after the Demon Deacons showed some vulnerability on Thursday. In the other semifinal, Arizona State will face off against Baylor, two teams that recorded decisive victories over teams struggling in the early part of the season in the first round.
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