Holiday Tournament Previews: Puerto Rico Tip-Off & Charleston Classic

Posted by Andy Gripshover on November 19th, 2015

One of the true beauties of non-conference play in November is all of the various tournaments and the match-ups that they enable. With multiple events tipping off this weekend, let’s start this series of previews by analyzing two of the bigger annual events — the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (bracket) and the Charleston Classic (bracket).

Puerto Rico Tip-Off

Potential top-10 pick Jakob Poeltl and Utah headline a strong Puerto Rico Tip Off tourney. (AP)

Potential top-10 pick Jakob Poeltl and Utah headline a strong Puerto Rico Tip-Off. (AP)

  • Favorite: Utah. Just about everyone other than Delon Wright and Dallin Bachynski is back, and Brandon Taylor can fill enough of Wright’s shoes without making the team so reliant on any one player. Arizona is the Pac-12 favorite by default this season but it’s looking incredibly wide open after that and it ultimately may come down to the Utes defending their second-place crown against upstart Cal.
  • Darkhorse: Butler. It’s Butler in a tournament setting — you’re not quite sure you see the Bulldogs coming but you’re not surprised when they do. Roosevelt Jones (yes, he’s still there) and Kellen Dunham (yep, him too) lead a team that dropped a Big East record 144 points on The Citadel transitioning from Chuck Driesell (344th in adjusted pace last year) to Duggar Baucom (the former VMI coach who was perpetually first)
  • Most on the line: Miami, Minnesota, Temple. The Hurricanes might be the most interesting team in this tournament. That’s not a surprise considering they were also one of the most interesting teams for most of last season. Will they be the “winning at Cameron by 16” Miami or the “losing at home to Eastern Kentucky” Miami? Probably somewhere in-between. The Gophers are entering Year Three of the Richard Pitino Experiment, but closed Year Two by losing six of their final eight games. They’ll be eager to get off to a good start. The Owls couldn’t keep it close with a Marcus Paige-less UNC team in Annapolis and they have as much on the line as any team this weekend by virtue of their status as annual NCAA bubble candidates.

  • Storyline: Can Butler do it again in a tournament setting? Everyone knows the Bulldogs for their tournament performances in March — back-to-back National Championship game appearances; numerous other second weekend runs — but both the 2013 and 2015 editions of this program made massive statements against highly-ranked UNC teams in holiday tournaments (2013: Maui, after beating Marquette at the buzzer; 2015: Atlantis, with an eventual third place victory over Georgetown.) Butler does its best work in this format and is a natural attention-grabber whenever it sees a tournament trophy on hand.
  • Player to watch: Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah. He’s Batman and Jordan Loveridge is Robin, but the player who is projected to go ninth in the latest DraftExpress Mock Draft is who gets discussed in this space. Poeltl is a classic big man who uses his athleticism on both ends of the floor to make a difference. The secret got out after his dominant performance in an upset win over Wichita State this time last year and he could have some more eye-opening moments this weekend.

Charleston Classic

Virginia will rely even more on Malcolm Brogdon as the season progresses. (Getty)

Virginia will rely even more on Malcolm Brogdon as the season progresses. (24/7)

  • Favorite: Virginia. Honestly, there ain’t no shame or blame in losing a game at George Washington. Good for Tony Bennett for taking that true road game in the first place. Had Justin Anderson returned to school, Virginia might have been the preseason #1 in all the national polls. As it stands now, they should sit somewhere around the top 10 for most of the season and really shouldn’t have much of a problem with this bracket.
  • Darkhorse: Long Beach State. You have to admit you’re curious to see what The Beach can do here after notching the late night/early morning upset victory over BYU earlier this week. The 49ers are likely to have a semifinal date with Virginia if they can knock off Seton Hall in the opener.
  • Most on the line: Ole Miss, Seton Hall, Oklahoma State. Is this the bubble watch already? These three teams are pretty much always on or around the bubble in late February and things look no different this season. The Rebels start out with George Mason; the Pokes draw a hapless Towson squad; and the Pirates get the aforementioned 49ers. All of these would be viewed as Bad Losses by March. If all held serve, Ole Miss and Oklahoma State would have to think they could win that semifinal against the other, while Seton Hall would get the resume-enhancing chance against Virginia.
  • Storyline: Can Virginia bounce back? Since the narrative writes itself, let’s just point out that Charleston is only 500 miles south of Charlottesville. I would expect a number of Wahoos vacationing during the weekend before Thanksgiving. It could be helpful to play in front of basically a home crowd if they don’t have all their kinks worked out yet with things like “shooting” (5-of-20 from three at George Washington) and “defending down low.”
  • Player to watch: Malcolm Brogdon, G, Virginia. He basically put the team on his back late against George Washington, trying to pull a win out of the fire of a horrific team offensive performance. He notched 40 percent of Virginia’s field goals (9-of-25) and found a way to grab eight boards and two steals as well as dish out four assists — it’s safe to say the the senior certainly does it all.


Andrew Gripshover (15 Posts)

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