Analyzing the Big 12 Early Season Tournaments: Kansas & Texas Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on October 8th, 2012

We’re just four days away from the official opening to the 2012-13 college basketball season as schools will be able to start officially practicing Friday night. Before then, though, we’re going to take a look at the various pre-conference tournaments that have become synonymous with the first month of college basketball. Nearly every Big 12 school is competing in one of those tournaments this season and we’ll take time each day this week to preview each bracket, from Hawaii to Puerto Rico to New York City. We start the week with the premier programs in the conference, Kansas and Texas.

CBE Hall of Fame Classic

Dates: November 20-21
Location: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri
Teams: Kansas, Texas A&M, Washington State, Saint Louis

The Sprint Center Will Have a Partisan KU Crowd at the CBE This Year

Technically, there are 12 teams in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. The four host schools listed above each play two “host round” games at home before advancing — win or lose — to the Championship Rounds at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The “win or lose” part is why talking about teams like Chattanooga or Utah Valley as if they’re really in the tournament field is unnecessary. If you cut through the algebraic details of the “host rounds” and “sub-host rounds” listed on the tournament website, things get much simpler. Texas A&M plays Saint Louis on Monday, November 20. Kansas plays Washington State soon after that. The winners and losers play the next day.

Most of the Sprint Center will be decked out with KU’s Crimson and Blue, but the biggest storyline heading into the 12th annual tournament might be the unexpected departure of Saint Louis head coach Rick Majerus, who stepped down in August due to heart problems. The Billikens nearly knocked off No. 1 seed Michigan State in the second round of last season’s NCAA Tournament and have been a fringe Top 25 team on many preseason ballots.

Texas A&M and Washington State are both going through rebuilding projects. The Aggies lose their most versatile player, 6’7″ wing Khris Middleton, off a team that didn’t make the postseason. They return leading scorer Elston Turner (13.8 PPG) and Ray Turner, a 6’7″ senior forward who led the team with 5.5 rebounds per game. The rest is up in the air, however, and the Aggies will probably struggle in their first season in the SEC. Washington State head coach Ken Bone dismissed senior and three-year starter Reggie Moore last month for undisclosed reasons, further diminishing any hopes of a successful season in Pullman. Redshirt sophomore and former Kansas guard Royce Woolridge should get plenty of minutes this season for the Cougars, but without Moore at point guard, it’s hard to envision Wazzu in any kind of postseason tournament, let alone staying with Kansas in a de facto road game in Kansas City.

The Jayhawks are poised for another Final Four run next spring. They lose First-Team All-America forward Thomas Robinson and All-Big 12 point guard Tyshawn Taylor to the NBA, but bring in a talented group of freshmen to go along with preseason All-Big 12 players Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson. Withey, a 7’0″ senior center, will need to continue the dominance displayed by Kansas big men in recent years, from Robinson to Marcus Morris to Cole Aldrich and beyond. As many as eight freshman will be in the rotation early in the season, so the potential championship game against Saint Louis could be interesting.

Players to Watch:

  • Jeff Withey, Center, Kansas
  • Elijah Johnson, Guard, Kansas
  • Kwamain Mitchell, Guard, Saint Louis
  • Ray Turner, Forward, Texas A&M

Championship Prediction: Kansas 71, Saint Louis 64

Maui Invitational

Dates: November 19-21
Location: Lahaina Events Center, Maui, Hi.
Teams: Texas, Marquette, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Chaminade, USC, Illinois, Butler

One of the most popular early season tournaments, the Maui Invitational has become the unofficial start to the college basketball season. North Carolina is looking for its fourth Maui Invitational championship (1999, 2004, 2008) and faces off with Mississippi State in the first round. The Tar Heels will have a tough time replacing the quartet of Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller, all whom were taken in June’s NBA draft.

UNC Has Traditionally Done Very Well in the Islands

Big 12 representative Texas benefits from playing the host school (and Division II competitor), Chaminade, in the first round before facing the winner of the USC/Illinois game. The Longhorns lose high-scoring guard J’Covan Brown (20.1 PPG last season) but return sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo, who decided against the NBA Draft and will lead a young Texas team that includes the 11th best recruiting class in the nation according to Kabongo, along with fellow sophomore Sheldon McClellan (11.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG last season) should help ease the transition for the seven freshmen making their collegiate debuts.

The rest of the field has plenty of question marks. Jim Groce takes over for Bruce Weber at Illinois, who was fired after nine seasons in Champaign. Losing sophomore center Meyers Leonard (13.6 PPG last season) to the NBA likely killed any chances the Illini had of making the NCAA Tournament. At Butler, head coach Brad Stevens will have former Arkansas guard Rotnei Clarke in the rotation after sitting out last season after transferring. Clarke averaged 15.3 PPG for Arkansas in 2010-11 and shot nearly 44 percent from beyond the arc. The loss of guard Ronald Nored, however, will keep Butler out of the national spotlight this season. While the 2012 field isn’t as loaded as it’s been in years past, the Maui Invitational is still one of the premier tournaments in the country.

Players to Watch:

  • James Michael McAdoo, Forward, North Carolina
  • Myck Kabongo, Guard, Texas
  • Sheldon McClellan, Texas
  • Rotnei Clarke, Guard, Butler

Championship Prediction: Texas 77, North Carolina 75

KoryCarpenter (150 Posts)

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