It’s never too early to take a look at the early season college basketball tournaments, and we’re starting with the 2K Classic benefitting Wounded Warrior Project.
Kids these days – and by that, I mean 30 years old and younger – really have no idea how barren the early college basketball schedule used to be. Now, thanks to early season tournaments getting big money from networks that are getting even bigger money from sponsors, all of that has changed. One of my favorites is the 2K Classic benefitting Wounded Warrior Project which is set for Nov. 16-17 at Madison Square Garden.
This year’s bracket gives us a couple of solid squads from the ACC and Big East up against crews from the Pac-12 and A-10. The quartet competing in the Big Apple are the Virginia Tech Hokies, Providence Friars, Washington Huskies and Saint Louis Billikens, and we’re still roughly two weeks away from NCAA basketball odds being released for the tournament.Friars’ Expereience Can’t Be Overlooked Early
If we go by current college basketball futures, however, it’s Virginia Tech who should be considered the early favorite. Buzz Williams’ gang can currently be found anywhere from 50/1 to 100/1 to be the last team standing next April at the Alamodome in San Antonio, and they’re running in the middle of the ACC pack for conference honors. The Hokies lost their two leading scorers, Zach LeDay and Seth Allen, from a team that went 22-11 and bowed out in an 8/9 matchup vs. Wisconsin at the Big Dance. Returning to the fold are three players who scored 10+ points per game – Kenny Clarke, Ahmed Hill, Justin Robinson – plus Va Tech will have 6-10 center Kenny Blackshear on the floor after he missed the 2016-17 campaign with a leg injury.
Also making its first appearance in this tourney is Providence, and Ed Cooley has a lot of experience to work with this campaign with his top 7 scorers back on the floor. Rodney Bullock (15.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is the beast down low while Kyron Cartwright (11.4 ppg, 6.7 apg) directs the backcourt. Taking down Villanova and Xavier in the Big East won’t be easy, but the Friars should be favored by SBR’s top sports books in most of their early games.
Billikens Should Make Huge Turnaround In ’17-’18
Providence will take on Washington in the opening round of this tournament, and present a huge early test for the Huskies who have a new head coach in Mike Hopkins. Hopkins has been serving as an assistant under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse the past two decades was seen as the heir apparent to assume control of that program when Boeheim retired before accepting the Washington job. The Huskies lost leading scorer Markelle Fultz who went No. 1 overall to the 76ers in the NBA Draft, but do return the next three scorers from last year’s team – David Crisp, Noah Dickerson and Matisse Thybulle. Washington drags a 13-game losing streak into the 2017-18 campaign as they undergo a change in coaching philosophies.
Now in just his second season at Saint Louis, Travis Ford leads the Billikens out to face Virginia Tech in the first round of this tourney. Davell Roby is the most recognizable name from last year, along with Jermaine Bishop who missed much of 2016-17 with an ankle injury. Ford has several transfers who sat out last season, led by Javon Bess who came over from Michigan State. Coupled with 4-star recruit Jordan Goodwin, it’s a team that should give trouble to the rest of the A-10 and quite possibly make the leap from a 12-21 season into the NCAA Tournament.
Make sure to check back for free college basketball picks for the first two games of the 2K Classic, as well as the championship contest.