As we get closer to the November start of the NCAA Basketball schedule, I continue my early looks at the November Tournaments which basketball fans love so much. Today I am taking my early preview of the 2K Sports Classic which benefits Coaches Vs. Cancer (If you are a basketball fan, but don't know about this charity, please take a look at it here.)
The 2K Sports Classic is another one of the tourneys which is set up to guarantee that the 4 marquee names automatically make it to the Semi-finals in New York City. This year, we will see some great match-ups with Texas, Illinois, Pittsburgh and Maryland all taking part. For all fans, these are four coaches which are a must to see, especially watching how prepared their teams are each game.
If you haven't already, remember to check out the other Early Season Tournaments I have reviewed so far - Just go to the front page - NBADraftBlog.com to read about the Maui Invitational, NIT Season Tip-Off, 76 Classic, Old Spice Classic, Puerto Rico Tip-Off and the CBE Classic.
Now let's take a look at the 2K Sports Classic...
2K Sports Classic Pre-Preview
With their main offensive and defensive threats gone, Texas is going to need some of last year’s role players to step up, as well as two top-level freshmen. Jordan Hamilton, a sophomore shooting guard, will need to show more of the scoring ability he showed in flashes last season. Hamilton is a much better shooter than he showed last year, when he seemed to rush his shots and was not getting himself set before shooting. He has great size for a guard, or he can move over to the 3 if needed. On defense, he still needs to work on his positioning and his lateral movement, though he has the ability to be disruptive with his long arms. The backcourt will most likely consist of J’Covan Brown and Cory Joseph, one of the top freshmen in the country. Brown is extremely quick, but erratic, and will most likely cede the point guard duties to Joseph. However, Brown has the ability to push the ball in transition and goes strong to the basket. He uses his quick hands and feet well on defense, though his effort can be a bit inconsistent. Joseph is effective as both a distributor and scorer, though he will need to add some muscle to flourish at the NCAA level. He has great energy and will go out there and compete every night. His HS teammate and fellow freshman, Tristan Thompson, should be an immediate contributor in the frontcourt, where the Longhorns lost both Damion James and Dexter Pittman. Thompson is a solid post player, can rebound on both ends, and runs the court well. Defensively, he still relies more on instincts than fundamental play, though he should improve that under Coach Rick Barnes.
No coach gets more out of his players than Jamie Dixon. Expect this season to be no different. Led by Ashton Gibbs, the Panthers will battle every night against any team. Gibbs exploded on the Big East scene last season, averaging almost 16 points a game, up from 4 the year before. He has good range on his jumper, an effective first step, and is not afraid to take a hit on his way to the basket. Gilbert Brown will also be back to provide scoring and rebounding support. Brown has the ability to hit the perimeter jumper and is very effective grabbing a scoring off of offensive rebounds. He is very athletic and uses it well on the defensive end. Dante Taylor should have a breakout sophomore season to become one of the better big men in the Big East. He has a wide body, good footwork, and makes quick, powerful moves in the post. On defense, I would like to see him be more aggressive, especially contesting shots. The guy who is the glue to the Pitt team, and easily their most valuable player, is Brad Wanamaker. A tough shooting guard with the ability to hit from long and mid-range, Wanamaker is also very good defender, rebounder, and has excellent court-vision.
The Grevis Vasquez era is over, and the graduation of Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes means that Gary Williams will need to forge a new identity on the current group of Maryland players. One thing that is assured is that Williams’ players will match his trademark intensity. The player most likely to break-out this season is center Jordan Williams. At 6’10, 260, Williams does a great job getting position in the post, and uses his strength well to get to the basket. His post play is still a bit raw, but by the end of last season he had added a few go-to moves to his arsenal. He needs to show improvement on the defensive end where he his lack of footwork gets him beat by smaller post players. Sean Mosley should provide some scoring punch from the shooting guard position. He is capable of taking the ball strong to the basket, as well as stepping back and hitting the 3. Mosley made good strides in his shot selection last season and I expect him to keep improving on it. Two freshmen guards will also need to contribute immediately for Maryland to be competitive this season. Point guard Terrell Stoglin is small and strong, does a great job scoring, and finds ways to keep the defense off-balance. A strong upper-body allows him to take some hits going to the basket. He will need to improve on being able to control the team’s tempo and his decision-making to become a top-level point guard. Mychal Parker is a lanky shooting guard, though he is much better going to the basket than shooting jumpers. His effort on defense can be inconsistent, but expect that to change under Coach Williams if he wants to get playing time.
Bruce Weber’s Illini team should take another step towards the top of the Big 10 this season. Led by Demetri McCamey, the backcourt could be one of the more exciting ones you see this season. McCamey has good size for a point guard, has outstanding court-vision and decision-making skills and can flourish in both transition and half-court situations. He does a great job penetrating the defense and drawing fouls, though he does need to be more consistent with his jumper. He has decent defensive skills, though he tends to stand up on defense rather than in defensive position. He is joined by sophomores Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson in the backcourt. Both can be very good scorers, though Richardson is the more consistent perimeter shooter. Paul on the other hand is a much better perimeter defender. The frontline is handled by two big bodies – seniors Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis. Tisdale is a legit seven-footer who does a good job getting position in the post and scoring with excellent footwork. He does need to get stronger and become more aggressive, especially on the defensive end, where he gets moved out of position on rebounds too easily. Davis is the workhorse, fighting for rebounds and loose balls, though he shows nice touch on his shot around the rim. He plays extremely tough defense and is he is very good at using his body to force players off the blocks. Freshman Meyers Leonard should provide some good depth in the frontcourt, while Jereme Richmond can provide some scoring off the bench if necessary. Once he adds some muscle, it will be tough for Coach Weber to keep him off the floor.
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