Thursday was a big day for in-season tournaments as many announced the pairings for their events, one of which being the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Here are some quick thoughts on the eight teams taking part in the event, scheduled for November 15, 16 and 18 (and a non-bracketed game between UNC Asheville and NC State on November 23).
Puerto Rico Tip-Off Schedule (all times Eastern)
10:30 am Akron vs. Oklahoma State (ESPNU)
12:30 pm UNC Asheville vs. Tennessee (ESPNU)
5:00 pm NC State vs. Penn State (ESPN2)
7:30 pm Providence vs. Massachusetts (ESPNU)
10:30 am Semifinal 1 (ESPNU)
1:00 pm Consolation 1 (ESPN3)
5:00 pm Semifinal 2 (ESPN2 or ESPNU)
7:30 pm Consolation 2 (ESPN3)
11:oo am 7th place game (ESPN3)
1:30 pm 5th place game (ESPNU)
3:30 pm 3rd place game (ESPNU)
6:30 pm Championship game (ESPN2)
Best quarterfinal: Akron vs. Oklahoma State
The best quarterfinal is set to tip at 10:30 am, with both teams looking to make good on their talent and get to the NCAA tournament. The Zips are led by senior center Zeke Marshall, who could very well hear his name called in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft.
Keith Dambrot’s team won the MAC regular season title outright, only to fall to Ohio by a point in the conference tournament final, and with the majority of their key contributors back (they did lose forward Nikola Cvetinovic) Akron will be one of the preseason favorites in the MAC.
As for Travis Ford’s Cowboys, Keiton Page has graduated but the back court will be in good shape thanks to the addition of Marcus Smart and high school teammate Phil Forte.
And Le’Bryan Nash returns to Stillwater for his sophomore season, and if the Cowboys play to their potential this is a likely NCAA tournament team out of the Big 12.
Best individual match-up (that we know will happen): Lorenzo Brown (NC State) vs. Tim Frazier (Penn State)
The bottom half of the bracket will have two very good point guard battles, with Vincent Council (Providence) and Chaz Williams (UMass) facing off in the nightcap.
Brown, who likely won’t see much playing time on the Wolfpack’s trip to Spain due to surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee, has been hailed by many as the best returning point guard in the ACC.
On the other side is Frazier, who was one of the Big Ten’s best in an otherwise rough season for the Nittany Lions, and he should be even better provided some teammates step up to assist him offensively.
Best individual match-up (that you want to see): Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee) vs. C.J. Leslie (NC State)
This would have to happen in the final obviously, but with their dissimilar games a battle between Stokes and Leslie would be fun to watch.
Leslie’s the better scorer of the two (Stokes’ output stunted some by being a mid-season addition) while Stokes had a slightly higher rebounding average (7.4 to Leslie’s 7.3) and outweighs the junior by nearly 40 pounds. “Styles make fights” and this will be one individual showdown to focus on.
Winner: NC State
Looking at these two teams on paper most will say that the Wolfpack and Volunteers are the early favorites, but UMass and the winner of the Akron/Oklahoma State quarterfinal will also factor into the equation.
But with their returnees and a very good incoming freshman class (three McDonald’s All-Americans led by shooting guard Rodney Purvis) Mark Gottfried’s team can use San Juan as a springboard towards contending for an ACC title.