Thursday, November 20, 2014

Neutral site tournaments, part 1: the pre-Thanksgiving week rush

This is part 1 in a multi-part series, previewing all neutral site tournaments and their bracket impact.  Let's see what's at stake:

Puerto Rico Tip-Off (November 20, 21, 23)
Texas A&M vs. Dayton
Charleston vs. Connecticut
New Mexico vs. Boston College
George Mason vs. West Virginia

A field of moderate strength, with the clear top 4 teams not playing each other in the quarterfinals.  The battle is for the top 4 (Dayton, UConn, UNM, WVU) to avoid a bad loss, and then to pick up 2 chances at quality wins.  It's a spot where avoiding the bad loss might actually matter more to the likes of UNM and Dayton.

Charleston Classic (November 20, 21, 23)
USC vs. Akron
Drexel vs. Miami
Penn St vs. Charlotte
Cornell vs. South Carolina

Eclectic field here.  I'm not sure a single one of these teams can call themselves an at-large team at this point.  So some of the wins available in this tourney aren't as valuable as you think.  On the other hand, 3 neutral-site wins is a good thing to have in your back pocket in March.  Chances for Miami (coming off a win over Florida) to establish itself as a NCAA team by winning all 3.  I can't imagine either USC or Penn St being legit contenders for the NCAAs....Akron and Charlotte could, and winning this tournament is a good first step.  One thing is clear:  multiple losses in this tourney will be crippling.

2K Sports Classic (November 20-21)
Texas vs. Iowa
Syracuse vs. California

Cal is probably a tier down from the top 3 here.  Despite the great field, this is kind of a non-event in my eyes.  Yes, winning these games would be great, for everyone, but each of these 4 teams will get many more similar chances at quality wins later.

Paradise Jam (November 21-24)
Clemson vs. Gardner-Webb
Seton Hall vs. Nevada
LSU vs. Old Dominion
Illinois St vs. Weber St

LSU is the best team in this field and needs to act like it, because this thing is full of at-large mines.  It's more important to avoid a bad loss in this thing than anything else.  Underwhelming field.  Clemson and Seton Hall are a bit off the at-large pace; a couple of wins here would help immensely.  Also, ODU is a rising team, and an upset of LSU would at least get them on my radar this early in the season.

Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (November 21-22)
Stanford vs. UNLV
Duke vs. Temple

Temple is poop this year, so Duke should handle.  Stanford/UNLV feels like a classic bubble game.  Lose it, and you get a worthless game with Temple.  Win it, and you get a house money shot at Duke.  That is a high-stakes game right there.

Hall of Fame Tip-Off (November 22-23)
UMass vs. Notre Dame
Providence vs. Florida St
UMass vs. Florida St
Providence vs. Notre Dame

4 bubble teams.  Well, they're in various states near the bubble, but you get the picture.  The stakes are pretty straightforward, I think.

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