Four teams travel to New York City Tuesday night, having taken different paths to get there and holding different outlooks for their respective 2012-13 seasons:
– No. 25 NC State was dubbed a Final Four contender in the preseason, but two early losses have the Wolfpack as a fringe Top-25 team one month into the season.
– No. 15 Georgetown has been one of the most quickly rising stocks in the country after a strong performance at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, but the Hoyas hope an unimpressive 37-36 win over Tennessee last week is just a fluke.
– Connecticut, under the direction of new head coach Kevin Ollie, is playing with house money after being disqualified from postseason play this season, but is off to a strong start. An early win over Michigan State helped the cause.
– And Texas, without point guard Myck Kabongo as he continues to sort out NCAA eligibility issues, had a disappointing trip to Maui, but enters the Jimmy V Classic on a three-game winning streak.
Check out NBCSports.com’s preview of the Jimmy V Classic below:
Player to Watch: Otto Porter, Georgetown
Georgetown coach John Thompson III has had nothing but praise for Porter since he fully returned from injury in the Legends Classic in mid-November. Porter has been the type of versatile player that the Hoyas need to fill in the gaps in the stat sheet. He is averaging 11.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. He was just 4-of-11 from the field against Tennessee, but look for Texas to key in on him Tuesday night.
Match-up to Watch: Lorenzo Brown vs. Shabazz Napier, NC State vs. Connecticut
Napier weathered the storm of transfers and NCAA issues that plagued the Huskies in the offseason and has responded by having the best season of his career so far in 2012-13. Averaging 18.6 points per game, he’ll have met his match Tuesday night against NC State’s Brown.
Many would argue that Brown is a Top 10 point guard in the country, and for good reason. His scoring and field goal percentage is down from last season, but he continues to distribute the basketball with six assists per game.
Predictions: No. 15 Georgetown over Texas, No. 25 NC State over Connecticut
With Texas still missing Kabongo, it’s difficult to take the Longhorns over a team like Georgetown that is so steadily on the upswing. Yes, Georgetown had an ugly, ugly 37-36 win over Tennessee last week, but Porter, along with Greg Whittington and Markel Starks, should be able to get back to Legends Classic form Tuesday night.
NC State’s two losses this season have come to teams that are currently ranked nationally—Oklahoma State and Michigan. I really like what freshman T.J. Warren has been able to bring to the table (15.3 points per game), especially considering the fact that he was overshadowed in the offseason by talks about fellow freshman Rodney Purvis.
Connecticut is solid, but their lack of rebounding could come to bite them against NC State and inside presences like Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie. Napier and Boatright will have to continue to be the engine behind the Huskies’ attack if they want to get the win.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_