November 2008


 

By Brennan Marks SZ Contributing Writer

     Some of you might recognize me from my weekly college football columns. I love college football, but if there is any sport I love more than college football, it is college basketball. Therefore, I will periodically write columns about college basketball, and hopefully, they will appear on this blog.

     Now, the college basketball season is quickly approaching, and I do not have enough time, or expertise to write a comprehensive preview of every possible facet of the season. Instead, this column ranks the preseason tournaments from worst to best as far as quality of teams goes. The basis in my selection for tournaments was ranking all of the tournaments on this web page: http://www.sportsline.com/collegebasketball/story/10932089 , and I am sorry if any other tournaments were left out. This article is strictly based on my opinions and assumptions on the teams, but that does not mean that some of the lower ranked tournaments will provide less exciting games. Anyway, here is the list.

 

10. Great Alaskan Shootout

     The Great Alaskan Shootout has a name reputation, but that’s about all it has this year. When the headliners are Louisiana Tech and San Diego State, you know you’re in trouble. Maybe Sarah Palin will show up, though.

 

9. Cancun Challenge

     From cold Alaska, we move to a more ideal climate in Cancun, and the Cancun Challenge itself is a bit more ideal than the Great Alaskan Shootout. Still, Cancun features a decent SEC team in Vanderbilt, last year’s regular season media darling in Drake, a solid C-USA team with UCF, a team with the hottest coach in America with VCU, and good New Mexico team. That may sound good but compared to some of the other tournaments, it’s nothing.

 

8. Legends Classic

     The Legends Classic does not excite me very much, but it does have a lot of depth and good teams at the top. There are four teams from four different BCS conferences (Mississippi State- SEC, Washington State- Pac 10, Texas Tech- Big 12, and Pittsburgh-Big East), and assuming one of those teams wins the tournament (like I said, a lot of depth but not many quality teams), they could make a statement for their conference.

 

7. Anaheim Classic

     This should be a good tournament. Arizona State features one of the best players in the nation in James Harden and will compete with UCLA and USC for the Pac-10. Baylor will compete for the Big 12. UTEP is in upper-tier of C-USA. St Mary’s has a more than legitimate shot to compete with Gonzaga in the WCC and make the NCAA tournament. Wake Forrest is on the rise in the ACC. Charlotte and Providence have decent programs as well. It’s a testament to rest of the tournaments that this tournament is ranked 7th.

 

6. Paradise Jam

     This tournament features two highly ranked teams in Connecticut and Miami and features some other solid teams, like Wisconsin, Southern Miss, and San Diego. But the strength of the tournaments rests on the quality of UConn and the U.

 

5. Puerto Rico Tip Off

     Many college basketball fans are wowed by the so-called “one-and-done” freshmen, or the players who would have gone to the NBA straight out of high school but were forced to go to college for one year because of an NBA rule. The Puerto Rico Tip Off features two of those freshmen with Demar Derozan of Pac 10 competitor USC and Tyreke Evans of national runner-up and perennial C-USA favorite, Memphis. Compound that with Xavier, Virginia Tech, Missouri, and Seton Hall, and you’ve got quite the formidable tournament.

 

4. Maui Invitational

     Well, it features the # 1 ranked team in the land in North Carolina, but in case you haven’t heard, their star player and preseason national player of the year/All-America, Tyler Hansbrough might not play because of an injury. Not to worry, this features another preseason All-America in Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody. Not to mention Texas, Alabama, Oregon, St. Joe’s, a depleted Indiana, and of course, Chaminade.

 

3. Coaches vs. Cancer

 

     Much like the Paradise Jam, this tournament features two highly ranked teams with Duke and UCLA. The difference is that this tournament has a lot more depth and features other solid teams such as Michigan, Houston, and Southern Illinois.

 

2. NIT Season Tip Off

 

     This tournament is probably the most well-known preseason tournament, and unlike the Great Alaskan Shootout, it lives up to its name recognition. The favorites are Oklahoma, Purdue, Boston College, Arizona, Davidson, and UAB. It also features Georgia and St. John’s. Personally, I’m rooting for Davidson to make it to Madison Square Garden (they would likely have to beat Oklahoma, at Oklahoma) and play against UAB (they would likely have to beat Arizona, at Arizona) in the semi-finals. That game would present a match-up of two of the best, if not the two best, 3 point shooters in college basketball in Davidson’s Stephen Curry and UAB’s Robert Vaden. Even if that does not occur, the games will surely feature some name and quality teams.

 

 

1.  Old Spice Classic

     This is an amazing tournament, and every team has a legitimate shot to make the NCAA tournament (although it’s not likely that a couple of them will). There’s not really much to say about this; it just features great teams. How did they get a field with Georgetown, Maryland, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Siena, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, and Wichita State? It’s simply amazing.

 

By: Brennan Marks, SZ Contributing Writer

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Game of the Week: Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida

     vs.        

By: Brennan Marks, SZ Contributing Writer

TV: CBS, 3:30 ET

Last Week: Georgia beat LSU, Florida defeated Kentucky

     There are two big games this week. The headliner is another battle of unbeatens in the Texas-Texas Tech game. The other game used to be officially referred to as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” and features two one-loss divisional rivals in Florida and Georgia. I decided to write about the other game.

     Why, you might ask, in a million years, would you choose to not write about what appears to be the last regular season game between two undefeated teams this year? Although the Texas-Texas Tech game is monumental in shaping the Big 12 and national championship picture, I have my reasons for choosing to write about the Cocktail Party, as always, I will share them with my loyal reader(s) in order to justify my decision.

     I have three reasons for choosing this match-up. First of all and most importantly, this game has conference and national championship implications as well. The winner of this game pretty much locks up the SEC East title, and if the winner wins out, including the SEC championship game, that team will have a legitimate shot to play in the national championship game (depending on the results of the rest of the nation, of course). It is necessary to mention, however, that running the table will still be difficult, with non-conference rivalries (Georgia vs. a new look Georgia Tech and Florida vs. a re-energized Florida State) and the SEC title game, looming large.

     Secondly, not only does Florida want revenge for losing the game last year, but also, the Gators remember the stunt coach Mark Richt and Georgia pulled on them last year. Now, in my last column, I mentioned that “we’re too deep in the season…for that abstract stuff to really matter (at least in most cases).” It would appear that I’m contradicting myself here, but because of my wily usage of parenthesis, I can claim that this is one of those few cases that deviates from the norm (although in retrospect, I probably should have used the term external instead of abstract). But back to the “stunt.” Last year, after scoring their first touchdown, Georgia head coach Mark Richt ordered his entire team to celebrate in the field and told them he would be disappointed if they did not receive a penalty. You can watch a video of that at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJAQjqZg_zI. Since then, Richt has apologized and has claimed to regret his decision. Still, that unsportsmanlike action remains center stage in the minds of Gator nation and of course, the actual football team.

     Lastly, this is one of the most competitive and fun rivalries in college football. Florida and Georgia, along with Tennessee, have been the class of the SEC East throughout the 90s and 2000s. This almost always means something. Plus, it’s just plain fun. With the cocktail party and all, I always try to tune in to this game, and I’m not a fan of either team. Yes, the Texas Tech – Texas game will be fun as well, but come on, this is the cocktail party.

     Well now that the explanation is finally done, I can actually discuss the game itself. On paper this game could at least sniff the offensive numbers that are bound to be put up by the Texas-Texas Tech game. We all know the players: the cult-hero, dual threat, “system,” Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow and the shifty, versatile, and fast WR/RB Percy Harvin for Florida; the incredibly accurate, precision passer, pro-style quarterback Matthew Stafford and flashy, strong, and athletic running back Knowshon Moreno. With an additional group of playmakers on each team – for Florida an improved running game with backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, for Georgia a talented group of wide-receivers with AJ Green and Mohamed Massaquoi – and respectable offensive line units, both offenses are bound to put up gaudy numbers, especially for the defensive-minded SEC.

Because of the potent of each offense, I believe that the team who can make a few more defensive plays as far as forcing turnovers, outplaying the other team’s offensive line or just get a few lucky breaks will be in the best position to win. Now it is possible for one defense to dominate the game (like Alabama did against Georgia for most of the game), but I believe the progress each team’s offense has made throughout the season will make that scenario unlikely. Still, the defense that can create the most opportunities, in my opinion, will win the game. Statistically, that does not bode well for the Bulldogs. The Gators are ahead of the Bulldogs in all defensive statistical categories, including total defense, scoring defense, sacks by, rushing defense, passing defense, and of course turnover margin (Florida leads the SEC in turnover margin and Georgia ranks 6th). Regardless, Georgia has some good playmakers on their defense, especially at linebacker, and should still be able to make this game competitive.

Secondly, not only does Florida want revenge for losing the game last year, but also, the Gators remember the stunt coach Mark Richt and Georgia pulled on them last year. Now, in my last column, I mentioned that “we’re too deep in the season…for that abstract stuff to really matter (at least in most cases).” It would appear that I’m contradicting myself here, but because of my wily usage of parenthesis, I can claim that this is one of those few cases that deviates from the norm (although in retrospect, I probably should have used the term external instead of abstract). But back to the “stunt.” Last year, after scoring their first touchdown, Georgia head coach Mark Richt ordered his entire team to celebrate in the field and told them he would be disappointed if they did not receive a penalty. You can watch a video of that at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJAQjqZg_zI. Since then, Richt has apologized and has claimed to regret his decision. Still, that unsportsmanlike action remains center stage in the minds of Gator nation and of course, the actual football team.

Lastly, this is one of the most competitive and fun rivalries in college football. Florida and Georgia, along with Tennessee, have been the class of the SEC East throughout the 90s and 2000s. This almost always means something. Plus, it’s just plain fun. With the cocktail party and all, I always try to tune in to this game, and I’m not a fan of either team. Yes, the Texas Tech – Texas game will be fun as well, but come on, this is the cocktail party.

Well now that the explanation is finally done, I can actually discuss the game itself. On paper this game could at least sniff the offensive numbers that are bound to be put up by the Texas-Texas Tech game. We all know the players: the cult-hero, dual threat, “system,” Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow and the shifty, versatile, and fast WR/RB Percy Harvin for Florida; the incredibly accurate, precision passer, pro-style quarterback Matthew Stafford and flashy, strong, and athletic running back Knowshon Moreno. With an additional group of playmakers on each team – for Florida an improved running game with backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, for Georgia a talented group of wide-receivers with AJ Green and Mohamed Massaquoi – and respectable offensive line units, both offenses are bound to put up gaudy numbers, especially for the defensive-minded SEC.

Because of the potent of each offense, I believe that the team who can make a few more defensive plays as far as forcing turnovers, outplaying the other team’s offensive line or just get a few lucky breaks will be in the best position to win. Now it is possible for one defense to dominate the game (like Alabama did against Georgia for most of the game), but I believe the progress each team’s offense has made throughout the season will make that scenario unlikely. Still, the defense that can create the most opportunities, in my opinion, will win the game. Statistically, that does not bode well for the Bulldogs. The Gators are ahead of the Bulldogs in all defensive statistical categories, including total defense, scoring defense, sacks by, rushing defense, passing defense, and of course turnover margin (Florida leads the SEC in turnover margin and Georgia ranks 6th). Regardless, Georgia has some good playmakers on their defense, especially at linebacker, and should still be able to make this game competitive.

Special teams wise, both teams offset each other for the most part. Florida has an excellent punt return game but Georgia leads the SEC in punting. Both Florida and Georgia have good kick return games, but both also have mediocre kickoff coverage units. However, it is important to note that Florida features one of the SEC leaders in the return game with the electrifying speedster Brandon James, and he could be a formidable foe for the Georgia special teams units.

As far as intangibles go, I think Florida has an advantage. The Gators obviously want revenge from last year and are extremely motivated to beat the Bulldogs. Georgia also is the most penalized team in the SEC (Florida ranks 2nd). However, intangibles are just intangibles and what really matters is the plays the players make.

Prediction: This, as usual, is an extremely tough game to call. I think Georgia has had too many issues and injuries this year, and Tebow is a lot healthier than he was at this point last year. I say Florida 41-38. If you were betting, though, you should probably bet against me because I have been wrong for the past several weeks in my predictions.

Look Back: Well, we can be thankful that Ohio State is officially eliminated from the national championship picture (knock on wood). But now, we could have a whole different problem on our hands. Penn State won in a defensive, traditional Big-10 battle and remained undefeated. But if they remained undefeated and more than 1 other team remains undefeated, we will, once again, have chaos. Thank you, BCS.

 

By: Brennan Marks, SZ Contributing Writer