We’re realistic. Unless you live in Durham or Spokane we know there’s no reason for you to pay attention to anything that even rhymes with College Basketball in mid-November. Hell even Storrs and Bloomington are currently preoccupied by Bowl Season. For most of you, College Basketball becomes College Basketball when the SEC on CBS ends and inter-conference play begins. But as Northern California natives can you give us any reason not to be preoccupied by College Basketball? So for the sake of our own psyche, and for the sake of the three or four readers we have when not being linked to Deadspin, a quick preview of a few of next week’s tournaments.
Where: EA Sports Maui Invitational
When: November 19, 20, 21
Who (is playing): Arizona State; Chaminade; Duke; Illinois; LSU; Marquette; Oklahoma State; Princeton
Who pt. 2 (player to watch): James Harden, Arizona State. In a class of highly touted freshmen, think of him as Dorrell Wright, an out of nowhere revelation. Harden was the high scorer in the Reebok ABCD camp All Star game and he’s been consistently compared to Paul Pierce.
Why (you should watch): Part of what’s frustrating about early season hoops is understanding exactly how to rationalize the impact of early season wins and losses. Kentucky’s loss to Gardner-Webb may be good fodder for a First and Ten topic and Louisville message boards but the reality is the loss, no matter how deflating, says about as much about Kentucky’s apparent inabilities as Louisville’s 35 point blow out of Hartford says about the Cardinals’ invincibility. It’s easiest to gauge how good a good team is by watching them play against other good teams. Nothing against the other Invitationals but Maui’s is usually (Princeton and Chaminade the obvious exceptions) the deepest in talent. Now watch Princeton take out Duke.
What (to watch for): In the past three years (and in years preceding Dayton’s win in ’03) the team that won the Maui Invitational got at least as far as the Elite Eight in March.
Where: Safeway Great Alaska Shootout
When: November 21-24
Who (is playing): Alaska Anchorage; Butler; Eastern Washington; Gonzaga; Michigan; Texas Tech; Virginia Tech; Western Kentucky
Who pt. 2 (player to watch): Larry Gurganious, Gonzaga. It’s been a goal of ours to avoid Josh Heytvelt drug jokes. Thankfully Gonzaga opted to play in Alaska over Maui this year, and Heytvelt’s out of this tourney anyway. So look for Gurganious, who doesn’t really carry Gonzaga’s offense, but who has made some spectacular plays early in the season.
Why (you should watch): When you’re pissed this week at the prospect of having to be in an airport for 3 hours so you can return to suburban Charlotte for Thanksgiving, remember that there are 80 plus college kids spending that same time in Alaska.
What (to watch for): There’s a Basketball team in Anchorage, Alaska? There’s a College in Anchorage, Alaska? It’s not a Community College?
Where: Old Spice Classic, Orlando Florida
When: Nov 22-25
Who (is playing): Central Florida; George Mason; Kansas State; NC State; Penn State; Rider; South Carolina; Villanova
Why (you should watch): The possibility of the aforementioned Bruce Campbell cameo (do mentions of commercials for crappy frat boy body spray count as pop culture references? We’re not sure this post has met its sports blog quota yet.)
What (to watch for): In his first 3 games as a collegian Michael Beasley has grabbed 60 rebounds. That’s more than Marquette’s entire roster will collect all season. However he’s done this against the formidable trio of Sacramento State, Pittsburgh State and Western Illinois. It will be curious to see the pace he can keep against stiffer competition (we realize we just suggested you watch a tournament for rebounding but fuck off…isn’t next week rivalry week anyway?)