Games #33-#34. It’s back to the World’s Most Famous Arena for the semifinal round of the Preseason NIT.
Villanova comes into this one at 4-0, although their path has not been as easy as their margins of victory would indicate. Bucknell and Boston U. both gave the Wildcats a fight, all while they are dealing with a suspension to star freshman JayVaughn Pinkston. Villanova’s attack is centered around their backcourt, and while Corey Fisher has yet to really catch fire this season, Maalik Wayns looks like a potential superstar. UCLA will be the first real test for this Villanova team. The Bruins come into this one at 3-0 and a bit under the radar. The front line of Reeves Nelson (19.3 ppg), Tyler Honeycutt, and Joshua Smith is underrated and Lazeric Jones is an upgrade over Jerime Anderson at the point. The question mark is going to be Malcolm Lee. He rolled an ankle against Pepperdine, and his status (as of this writing) is still uncertain.
The nightcap is between Tennessee and VCU. Tennessee is a bit of a question mark this season. They have some talented and versatile players in Tobias Harris, Scotty Hopson, and Cam Tatum. All three are capable scorers with length and athleticism. But Brian Williams still is not in shape at center and the combination of Melvin Goins and Trae Golden has not exactly yielded terrific point guard play. VCU may play in the CAA, but don’t be fooled — this is a very good basketball team. Joey Rodriguez is the best point guard you’ve never seen play (18.3 ppg, 10.3 apg, 2.0 TO’s in three games), Jamie Skeen is a power forward transfer from Wake Forest, Ed Nixon is as good a defender as you will find on the perimeter, and Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell are terrific complementary scorers. I’ll go as far as to say that I think VCU will win tonight.