NCAA Basketball Tournament - Gonzaga v Ohio State

Gonzaga looks to be the early Old Spice Classic favorite

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The bracket for the 2012 Old Spice Classic was released on Thursday, and while the games scheduled for Orlando offer quality there’s a chance the best game could be the one that isn’t part of the bracket.

That would be West Virginia’s trip to Spokane to take on Gonzaga on November 12, which is also a part of ESPN’s 24-hour marathon to celebrate the start of the season.

Here’s a quick look at the Old Spice Classic, which will be played on November 22, 23 and 25.

Old Spice Classic Schedule (all times Eastern)

November 22
Noon West Virginia vs. Marist (ESPN2)
2 PM Vanderbilt vs. Davidson (ESPN2)
7 PM UTEP vs. Oklahoma (ESPN2)
9 PM Clemson vs. Gonzaga (ESPN)

November 23
12:30 PM Semifinal #1 (ESPN)
3 PM Consolation #1 (ESPNU)
5:30 PM Consolation #2 (ESPN2)
7:30 PM Semifinal #2 (ESPN2)

November 25
11:30 AM 5th place game (ESPNU)
2 PM 7th place game (ESPN3)
4:30 PM 3rd place game (ESPNU)
7 PM Championship game (ESPN2)

Best quarterfinal: Vanderbilt vs. Davidson
Unfortunately that WVU/Gonzaga game can’t be counted as a quarterfinal, but the Commodores and Wildcats should be entertaining as well. Vanderbilt does lose a lot with Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins all in the NBA (lost six seniors total), but Kevin Stallings has some talented youngsters at his disposal.

Kedren Johnson, Rod Odom and Dai-Jon Parker are three of those players, and they’re going to have their hands full (and then some) with a Davidson team poised to repeat as SoCon champs.

Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks were one of the least-publicized front court tandems in America last season, and 6-4 guard J.P. Kuhlman is another outstanding player for Bob McKillop’s squad.

Best individual match-up (that we know will happen): Elias Harris (Gonzaga) vs. Devin Booker (Clemson)
With Clemson losing their top two scorers from last season Booker will need to be a major cog in the attack on both ends of the floor. Whether or not he’s able to do so once the Tigers reach ACC play will likely be known after their weekend in Orlando.

As for Harris, if he can remain healthy the senior is more than capable of going out with a bang. While some criticized Harris for his play last season, a look at his numbers shows an improvement from his sophomore year. Gonzaga has many weapons, but a Harris at his best makes the Bulldogs a much tougher team to beat.

Best individual match-up (that you want to see): Cohen (Davidson) vs. Aaric Murray (West Virginia)
Murray was one of the best big men in the Atlantic 10 while at La Salle, and while he may not be as versatile as the departed Kevin Jones he’ll have an impact on the Mountaineers.

Cohen was mentioned above, and he’s one of the key figures Davidson will need to play well should they match up with a West Virginia team that has some size in the paint.

Winner: Gonzaga
This isn’t the greatest in-season tournament field, with a number of the teams having some major questions to answer about themselves. The closest thing to a “finished” product is Gonzaga, who have the talent needed to account for the losses of Robert Sacre’ and Marquise Carter.

Clemson could be tricky and a possible semifinal match-up with Oklahoma could be as well, but Gonzaga’s biggest challenge likely comes in the title game. Is it West Virginia? Davidson? Either way it’s difficult to pick against the Zags in this one.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.