If you're a good team looking to get more attention on the national level, winning an early-season tournament is a great way to do it.
The 2K Classic features four teams hoping to play in the NCAA tournament this year, but there are still questions about whether any of these squads can be a legitimate contender in their respective conferences. The talent is there to do damage, but each one will have to answer questions in the early part of the year.
There are few bigger stages than Madison Square Garden for teams to prove they will be a legitimate force throughout the season. Here is a breakdown of each squad in the championship rounds with predictions for the exciting event.
|2K Classic Schedule|
|Nov. 20||Texas vs. Iowa||7 p.m.||Madison Square Garden, New York City||ESPN2|
|Nov. 20||Syracuse vs. California||9 p.m.||Madison Square Garden, New York City||ESPN2|
|Nov. 21||Consolation Game||5 p.m.||Madison Square Garden, New York City||ESPN2 or ESPNU|
|Nov. 21||Championship Game||7 p.m.||Madison Square Garden, New York City||ESPN2|
After getting one of the top recruits in the country, Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com noted what it meant for the Longhorns:
Myles Turner joined Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley to create one of the toughest frontcourts in the nation. Each player is a force in the paint offensively and knows how to rebound on both ends of the court.
Outside of maybe Kentucky, there will not be too many teams capable of matching up on the glass.
Still, the season will be based on how well Isaiah Taylor progresses as a leader on the court. He had a solid freshman year, but as a sophomore, he will need to cut down mistakes and find ways to create for others.
If he plays to his potential, Texas could be a Final Four contender by year's end.
Aaron White might be the best individual player in this tournament and is even one of the best in the country, according to College Basketball Talk:
He has been a consistent player throughout his career, coming into his senior season with 1,301 points scored and 653 rebounds. He is a hard worker in the low post and does the dirty work to get loose balls and easy buckets inside.
Unfortunately for opponents, you can't just foul him because he will make you pay at the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes are deeper than many think with 10 players capable of contributing at a high level. This helps the squad keep up a fast pace throughout the game while forcing opponents to keep up.
After years of being overlooked in the Big Ten, Iowa has a chance to contend in a wide-open conference behind Wisconsin.
The first two games have gone as well as Jim Boeheim could have hoped. Syracuse has used great defense to completely shut down their opponents. Kennesaw State and Hampton combined for just 89 points against the 2-3 zone.
Still, the head coach knows he is in for a much tougher test in the upcoming games. Boeheim talked about his tournament opponents after his most recent win, via Josh Carney of Cusenation.com:
They’re difficult games. Obviously Texas is in the top 10 and Cal is a good team. We’ve had three difficult, difficult games with them.
These games will give us a good indication of what we need to do better and what we need to work on. We’ve got a very difficult schedule, so there’s a lot of work to do with this team. We’re not even close to where last year’s team was.
The big question will be whether the Orange will have enough offense to compete with some of the better teams in the country. Rakeem Christmas has had a huge start to the year with his play in the low post, but freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph might have to become more aggressive in the half court.
This is as inexperienced a team as Syracuse has had in a long time, so these early battles could prove to be difficult.
A poor end to the regular season kept California out of the tournament a year ago, but the Golden Bears are ready for redemption this time around.
Without Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon, Tyrone Wallace has taken it upon himself to be the go-to option offensively for this team. So far he is off to a great start, as noted by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports:
Jordan Matthews also had a solid first two games, keeping this high-scoring attack dangerous from all angles.
Unfortunately, there are still doubts about how the defense will be able to hold up against better (and quicker) opponents. There is good size throughout, but Cal could end up giving up points in transition before the defense is set.
This squad should still be competitive in the Pac-12, but beating some of the powerhouses across the nation might be out of reach.
Predicted Winner: Syracuse
Texas is arguably the most talented squad in this tournament, but that doesn't always lead to wins. The good news is the Longhorns should be able to outmuscle Iowa inside and earn a tough victory in the semifinals.
In the second game, Syracuse has a chance to use its zone to force turnovers and get fast-break points against Cal. The Orange will keep the battle low-scoring before pulling away in the closing minutes.
The championship round will become a nightmare for Texas (as well as anyone who hates orange). Turner and Ridley will not be able to do much inside against the 2-3 zone because Christmas challenges every shot. Taylor and Holmes will be forced to make things happen from the perimeter, which will lead to forced shots and plenty of misses.
Meanwhile, Syracuse is extremely comfortable playing in Madison Square Garden and should be surrounded by a biased crowd in its favor. This should be enough for the Orange to pull out an important win to add to the resume early in the year.
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