SBR is giving you an early look at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where the Michigan Wolverines lead an interesting field of eight schools on the November NCAA odds schedule.
ESPN can hardly lose with the Puerto Rico Tip-Off schedule. Even with a big day of NFL games going on, the finals for this NCAA basketball tournament should draw a good TV crowd, especially among the 50-65 male demographic that still values the game of college hoops over what takes place on professional gridirons.
People like myself.
What attracts me most about this year's event is a wide open field of teams in the middle of current college basketball futures odds. Five of the eight squads are in the 35/1 to 100/1 range, led by the Michigan Wolverines who made it to the NCAA Finals last April before succumbing to the Louisville Cardinals by six in the National Championship.
The Virginia Commonwealth Rams, a victim to the Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament during Michigan's run to the title match, are also part of the lineup in Puerto Rico that cranks up on Nov. 21 and concludes three days later. Joining the Wolverines and Rams are the Georgetown Hoyas, Kansas State Wildcats, Florida State Seminoles, Northeastern Huskies and a pair of 49ers from Charlotte and Long Beach State.
For full coverage of all early season tournaments head over to our NCAA Basketball Picks page.
Will Rams & Wolverines Meet In Rematch Of March Madness Tilt?
The bracket sets up for a rematch between Michigan and VCU in the semifinals, but before they get there, there are opening tilts against Long Beach State and Florida State, respectively.
Based on current NCAA Basketball odds, Shaka Smart and the Rams are the preseason favorites to win the A-10 at +175 price, and 50/1 to cut down the nets at the NCAA's. Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic led last year's VCU squad in scoring, with Reddic also topping the team on the boards, and they're back along with Briante Weber who is expected to man the point. It should be a deep backcourt with Weber and Graham joined by Melvin Johnson and Rob Brandenburg.
The Rams will be up against it vs. Florida State, despite the Seminoles losing Michael Snaer as well as his expected replacement, top recruit Xavier Rathan-Mayes who ran afoul of silly NCAA rules. But head coach Leonard Hamilton still has a talented group, Okaro White at the top of that list, and the 'Noles have a very versatile roster that can play small or get real big in a hurry. Devon Bookert should be fun to watch knocking down treys, and Hamilton has two 7-footers on the inside with Kiel Turpin and Michael Ojo.
Should VCU advance and find Michigan waiting, the Rams won't have to deal with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. who combined for 32 points in the Wolverines' 78-53 win last March. Michigan, 7/2 to win the Big Ten this season behind Ohio State (5/2), does have Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III back, however, and that pair scored 35 vs. Virginia Commonwealth.
Will Hoyas Glide Through Their Half Of Bracket?
There's no question that ESPN prefers Michigan and Georgetown in the tournament finals. If the Hoyas are going to follow through in their half of the bracket, that means breezing past their opponent in the opener, Charlotte. The 49ers are moving back to Conference USA, and head coach Alan Major is taking talent with him. Pierria Henry and Willie Clayton can give anyone trouble, plus Charlotte landed a solid frontcourt mate for Clayton in frosh Cameron Blackely.
They'll have to be at their best to beat John Thompson III's squad. Georgetown, a strong 2/1 favorite to win the 'new' Big East, has to fill big shoes left by Otto Porter Jr., and Greg Whittington's career is on the indefinite list after a knee injury that followed his academic ineligibility last season. But Thompson has a pretty good core with experience to fall back on with the return of guards Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, plus big men Nate Lubick, Mikael Hopkins and Moses Ayegba.
What's Up In Manhattan?
Kansas, that is. Kansas State is a scary team right now, not just because they have talent as the program overall. Bruce Weber did an outstanding job last year directing the Wildcats to the Big 12 Championship, but things petered out quickly with an upset loss to La Salle in the NCAA Tournament opener, and it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing at K-State since.
Other than losing key players Rodney McGruder (15.6 ppg) and Angel Rodriguez (5.2 apg), the worst news was having to begin this season without top recruit Jevon Thomas. Weber does have two additional 1st-year stars in the making with guard Nigel Johnson and forward Wesley Iwundu, and it will be up to the returning upperclass trio of Will Spradling, Thomas Gipson and Shane Southwell to hold the fort while the youngsters come around.Right now, I like Florida State and Kansas State as mid-level favorites/'dogs. Michigan will be favored as long as John Beilein's boys are playing, but the Wolverines are upset bound in their second game of the bracket against either VCU or the Seminoles. Check back in November when we continue to follow this tournament with game previews and free sports picks.