I'm very excited for tonight's Jimmy V Basketball Classic. For starters, it features four quality teams. Also, I'll be at Madison Square Garden with a press pass covering the games for Bleacher Report! So, of course check back later tonight or early tomorrow morning for my post-game stories.
Here are some other reasons why I'm excited for this year's classic:
Stephen Curry Can Shoot
College basketball's brightest star will make his first trip to the World's Most Famous Arena as the Davidson Wildcats take on West Virginia in the opening game of the Classic (7:00 EST, ESPN).
West Virginia, once a Southern Conference school itself, will have its hands full with the nation's leading scorer. Needless to say, I'm super-pumped to see Curry in person. Watching him in last year's Tournament was incredible, and his amazing performances against Oklahoma and NC State this season have only increased his buzz.
While all eyes will be on Curry, I'll be focusing on Davidson's supporting cast, specifically forward Andrew Lovedale. Ultimately, it will be the other players that determine how far the Wildcats will go come March.
One supporting player that won't be in the line-up tonight is senior guard Max Paulhus Gosselin, who has been suspended for the game after being ejected for a flagrant foul in Saturday's contest.
AJ Abrams Can, Too
I wrote about Abrams last week, and ESPN.com's Andy Katz wrote an article about the Texas star today. Both of us note Abrams' incredibly quick release, and I'm excited to see the sweet shooting guard in person against Villanova (25 minutes after the first game ends, also on ESPN).
Some expected the Longhorns to regress after last season's Elite Eight run, since point guard DJ Augustin left for the NBA. Then again, some expected the same after Kevin Durant left in 2007.
It's still too early to tell what this Texas team is capable of, but the Longhorns are currently No. 6 in the country with a win over UCLA. Beating Villanova tonight would only pad the Longhorns' resume.
Villanova's Backcourt is Talented
In 2006, when Villanova earned a No. 1 in the Tournament and advanced to the Regional Finals before losing to eventual-champion Florida, it boasted one of the best backcourts in the country in Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, and Allan Ray. Lowry and Foye are starters in the NBA, while Ray played a season with the Celtics before signing a lucrative deal overseas.
The 2008 Wildcats (8-0) also feature a talented guard trio: junior Scottie Reynolds and the two Corey's, sophomores Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes. Reynolds can do it all, a point guard who can distribute as well as take over a game. Fisher is struggling a bit with his outside shooting but is still averaging in double figures, while Stokes is shooting better than 50 percent from downtown and averaging just under 13 points a game.
It's hard to imagine this group is better than the trio Jay Wright had a few years ago, but going up against a top-ranked Texas team will be a good indicator whether or not they're on the same level.
West Virginia Plays Defense
The Mountaineers started the week ranked 13th in the nation defensively, giving up a mere 55 points per game. They've held two opponents to 42 points, but neither had a player like Stephen Curry.
Some teams prefer to play in the 60's, but in West Virginia's case, I don't think it's a choice; rather, the offense has simply been inconsistent. The Mountaineers only allowed 54 against Kentucky, but lost the game.
Upperclassmen Da'Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff are going to need some help if they're going to beat Davidson tonight, and perhaps freshmen Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones, both from New York, will play well in their home state. If not, Curry might shoot them out of the gym.
As I noted earlier, be sure to check back later for my stories from the Jimmy V Classic!
Also, I'm doing some in-game blogging from MSG. Check that out here.