Among early season “Tournamentpalooza” is the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden, which begins Wednesday night. The championship and consolation games will be held the day after Thanksgiving, Friday.
Below is preview of each team that made it out of regional play and into the pool in New York City:
No. 4 Michigan
The Wolverines are the gem of this tournament, ranked in the Top 5 in the country and with expectations to match. Coach John Beilein was fortunate to see Trey Burke forego the chance to jump to the NBA and return for his sophomore season. Burke, in addition to a nationally relevant recruiting class, puts Michigan in the conversation to make a run in March.
Through three games, the Wolverines are in the Top 10 in the country in points per game, posting almost 90 per contest. Glenn Robinson III has been one of the nation’s best freshmen with 17.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Jamie Dixon’s Panthers needed overtime to beat Oakland on Saturday, but have a strong slate of players returning and now emerging as impact pieces. Talib Zanna is flourishing this season as the team’s leading scorer (14 ppg) and Tray Woodall has been one of the better guards in the country with 13.7 points and 7.3 assists per game.
Highly touted freshman Steven Adams has been solid so far, too, tallying 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
Kansas State enters its first season under coach Bruce Weber and was chosen fifth in the Big 12 in the preseason media poll. Weber brings a different feel to the sideline than former coach Frank Martin, but the Wildcats have some strong pieces that Weber will inherit from Martin’s time with the team.
Backcourt trio Angel Rodriguez, Will Spradling, and Rodney McGruder combine to score a little more than 30 points per game, but the Kansas State attack has been very balanced in its first four games. Rebounding has also been central to the Wildcats’ success, ranking second in the country in that category.
The Blue Hens are the underdog in this tournament, having defeated BCS opponent Virginia in the preliminary rounds to punch their ticket to MSG. Jarvis Threatt and Devon Saddler will get a chance to match up with the strong Kansas State backcourt, which should be interesting to watch Wednesday night.
Don’t forget about Jamelle Hagins (9.3 ppg, 12.3 rpg), a monster rebounder who will have his hands full against Kansas State, one of the best rebounding teams in the country.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_