One of the fun parts of the first few weeks of the season is the wave of tournaments that give us an early feel for some of the teams. Some do this better than others based on the field and how the games go, as sometimes a semifinal game doesn’t go quite the way some might expect and affects matchups the rest of the way.
By now, we know the championship matchups for several early ones. They came as a result of several Friday semifinals, and there will be some interesting ones among them.
We start with ones that got started on Thursday, with the Charleston Classic first as it produced the most notable result among semifinals on the day. It didn’t take new head coach Dave Paulsen long to get his first big win at George Mason, as the Patriots rallied in the second half to send the game to overtime, then made big plays in the extra session to beat Oklahoma State 71-68. Jaire Grayer, a late signee, led the Patriots with a game-high 23 points, including five three-pointers. In the last game of the day, Virginia blew out Long Beach State 87-52 to advance to take on the Patriots on Sunday. The Patriots could get a big signature win in this one.
Next up is the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which saw ranked teams split on the day. Butler took care of Temple 74-69 in a game where two players on each team posted double-doubles, then Miami blew out Utah 90-66 behind 27 points from Sheldon McClellan, while Tonye Jekiri got the better of Jakob Poeltl in a head-to-head matchup inside with 20 points on 8-10 shooting and 12 rebounds. Miami was 9-17 on three-pointers. The winners will play in what should be a dandy final on Sunday, and a chance for a significant win early on for both teams.
Moving to the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden, which in the past has been a Thursday-Friday affair during this week, the first semifinal went to Georgetown 71-61 over Wisconsin. It is the Hoyas’ first win of the season, and a good sign for them is that in a game where the emerging Bradley Hayes didn’t have it, freshman big man Jessie Govan did with 13 points and three blocked shots to go with Isaac Copeland’s 15 points and eight boards. Georgetown was 9-18 on three-pointers and held Wisconsin to 5-19 from behind the arc. In the nightcap, Duke pulled away in the second half to beat VCU 79-71 behind a career-high 30 points from Grayson Allen on 9-15 shooting. That sets up a fascinating final between a Georgetown team that has started a bit slowly and a Duke team that has some questions as we have seen over this week. It’s also one of two with an ACC-Big East final.
One other tournament got going on Friday, and that’s the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas. Tulsa had to rally from being down by 19 points, having surrendered 54 in the first half, to beat Ohio 90-88 behind a career-high 31 points and nine rebounds from Shaquille Harrison, holding off 30 points and eight assists from Ohio’s Jaaron Simmons. Hofstra beat Florida State 82-77, marking the second straight season a CAA contender has knocked off the Seminoles in November, as Northeastern did that last season. While one outlet is describing it as Hofstra “surprising” Florida State, I highly doubt Florida State’s excellent coaching staff was surprised by how good this Hofstra team is. The Seminoles have good talent, but will be figuring it out a little this season. South Carolina beat DePaul 76-61 and Indiana State beat Norfolk State 70-61 in the other quarterfinals.
Friday was a busy news day for Kansas. First, freshman Cheick Diallo was cleared to travel with the team, which is not as insignificant as it might first sound. The Jayhawks are in the Maui Invitational, which begins on Monday, so he might travel with them in the event he is eligible in time for a game there, if not all three. The talented big man has yet to be cleared to play as the NCAA investigates a relationship he has with someone. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks suspended guard Brannen Greene six games for conduct detrimental to the team. The junior is off to a nice start, averaging 12 points per game in 11.5 minutes per game, and he has made all five of his three-point attempts thus far.
Xavier continued its nice start with an 86-70 win at Michigan in another of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. The Musketeers took control in the second half to open up the lead after being up by nine at the break.
The biggest result among the many games not in a tournament format on Friday was UT-Arlington rallying to beat Ohio State 73-68 in Columbus. The Mavericks out-rebounded the Buckeyes 46-37 and took advantage of Ohio State going just 13-27 at the free throw line to win after trailing at halftime.
- The Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament has its semifinal round at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Old Dominion takes on Purdue and Florida plays Saint Joseph’s in the Naismith Bracket in the afternoon, while the Springfield Bracket in the evening has Vermont taking on Niagara and Buffalo taking on North Carolina A&T.
- The Paradise Jam continues with consolation action today, as the semifinals are tomorrow. Ohio takes on Norfolk State and DePaul takes on Florida State in St. Thomas.
- North Carolina will visit Northern Iowa in a game that was hoped to be a homecoming for senior guard Marcus Paige, one of the best kids in college basketball. Unfortunately, he has a broken hand and will not play.
- A sleeper to watch is early on as North Florida visits Louisville as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Classic. The Ospreys are favored in the Atlantic Sun and could win a game or two like this in non-conference play.
- A similar matchup is William & Mary, who has already knocked off NC State, traveling to Dayton.
- Old Southern Conference rivals meet as College of Charleston visits Davidson.
- Late in the day, New Mexico takes on USC at the Galen Center.