First Look: Old Spice Classic

Dylan Burkhardt
on
milk houseThe Old Spice Classic (bracket here) has quietly established itself as one of the premiere preseason tournaments in college basketball. It might not be as prestigious as the Madison Square Garden tournaments or as exotic as Maui, but it offers up some quality early season basketball. This year’s field has some very strong teams, though it might be just a notch below previous year’s.

Rather than play a couple patsies at home, every team plays three games at the Disney Milkhouse. The benefit of the Old Spice is that because all games are played in Orlando, every team gets a pretty significant RPI boost from the neutral court games.

Michigan’s side of the bracket includes Creighton, Xavier, and Marquette — three quality programs who are all probably in a little bit of a rebuilding mode. The other side of the bracket is headlined by hometown Florida State along with Iona, Baylor, and Alabama.

The tournament begins on Thanksgiving Day and Michigan will start the festivities with their noon tip off against Creighton.

Michigan has a very interesting draw because all three of their games are “winnable” but they will all provide Michigan a significant challenge. There is no 1,000 pound gorilla that Michigan will have to knock off like last year’s 2K classic, just three solid teams.

This creates an interesting scenario for putting together expectations. Vegas is picking Michigan to win the whole tournament but I think a 2-1 weekend would  be extremely successful for this team.

Here is an early look at the other seven teams in the tournament. Most of this was written before the season and doesn’t focus much on early games except where noted.

Creighton

Early Returns: 2-0, Dayton (L 80-90), Florida A&M (W 78-53)
Last Year: 27-8 (14-4), NIT Second Round, KenPom Profile
Blog: White & Blue Review

Creighton has established themselves as a Missouri Valley powerhouse. Dana Altman has finished in the top 4 of the MVC for the last 12 years. Creighton was a bubble snub last year (after playing a sub-par non conference schedule) before bowing out of the NIT to Kentucky.

The Blue Jays lost a pair of starters to graduation including scoring guard Booker Woodfox (MVC player of the year) and setup man Josh Dotzler. The Jays were very deep last year though and they have no shortage of talent.

Junior P’Allen Stinnet wasn’t nearly as efficient as Woodfox but the 6-foot-3 guard will be called upon to pick up some of the scoring load. Inside, Creighton will lean on a trio of functional big men in Kenny Lawson Jr., Chad Millard, and JUCO transfer Wayne Runnels.

Their loaded incoming freshmen class is not bad either. Andrew Bock (video) was a 4 star recruit, Ethan Wragge chose Creighton over Marquette, and Darryl Ashford is a JUCO recruit that was a former Texas Tech commitment. In early season play, Wragge and Ashford have been the major contributors thus far.

What Creighton lacks in top flight talent they make up for in numbers and coaching. There is little doubt that this Creighton team will be ready to play in Orlando. These games are the life blood of a mid major program like Creighton and they can be the difference between an NIT or NCAA bid.

Style of Play. Last year’s Creighton team was very good on both sides of the turnover battle. They only turned the ball over on 17.8% of their possessions while forcing turnovers on 23.5% of their opponents. They shoot the three ball well (38%) and take just under 38% of their shots from long range.

Expectations. Creighton has established themselves as a perennial power in the MVC and it’s clear that their fans expect an NCAA tournament berth year in and year out. It’s hard to call the expectation for this year’s Blue Jays anything but the NCAA tournament.

The Bluejays looked impressive in their early season road game at Dayton. They lost the game but battled to the end against a very good Dayton team (that just beat Georgia Tech in Puerto Rico). We will have much more on Creighton in the coming week including an interview with the White and Blue Review.

Marquette

Early Returns: 2-0, Centenary (W 85-62), MD Eastern Shore (W 86-60)
Last Year: 25-10 (12-6), NCAA 2nd round, KenPom
Blog: Cracked Sidewalks

After back-to-back disappointing second round NCAA losses, Marquette might be due for a bit of a step back. The Golden Eagles were hit hard by graduation, losing a trio of dominant guards in Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, and Wesley Matthews.

All hope is not lost for Marquette, Lazar Hayward has star potential and junior Jimmy Butler was very efficient in limited playing time. Not to mention Marquette’s 7 man recruiting class features plenty of talent.  The class is headlined by Junior Cadougan, Jeronne Maymon, and Erik Williams. The bad news is that Cadougan, the Eagle’s expected answer at the point guard, is sidelined for the season with an Achilles injury.

Marquette has rolled to a couple of easy early season victories and Hayward is averaging 18.5 ppg while Butler has added 20 per game. Maryland Eastern Shore and Centerary aren’t much in terms of competition though, it will be interesting to see how Marquette reacts against a tough Xavier team.

Style of Play. With their dynamic backcourt Marquette was a unique team, they held onto the ball as well as anyone in the country but also lived at the line. They were an average shooting and rebounding team and generally average on defense as well.

Expectations. With a significantly younger team and the lack of a true point guard it’s safe to expect Marquette to struggle a bit this year, especially early on. The Eagles still have a tremendous amount of talent and athleticism and are going to be capable of winning a lot of games. If I’m playing Marquette, I’d much rather play them in the 5th or 6th game of the year rather than the 25th.

Xavier

Early Returns: 2-0, Youngstown St. (W 83-57), Bowling Green (W 101-57)
Last Year: 27-8 (12-4), NCAA Sweet 16, Kenpom
Opposition Blogs: Musketeer Blogosphere, Crosstown Shoutout, Xavier Hoops

Sean Miller quietly created a top 20 program at Xavier. Not only has Xavier won three consecutive Atlantic 10 titles, they also established themselves in March beating power-conference schools such as Wisconsin, Purdue, and West Virginia while giving #1 seeds like Ohio State and Pittsburgh all they could handle in defeat.

Things have changed dramatically in Cincinnati this summer starting at the top. Sean Miller has moved along to Arizona and 39 year old Chris Mack has taken the reins. Miller wasn’t the only departure, CJ Anderson and BJ Raymond graduated while Derrick Brown headed to the NBA draft.

dante-jackson

Wing forward Dante Jackson will play a larger role on this year’s Xavier team

Dante Jackson, Jason Love and Terrell Holloway all averaged 5-7 ppg last year while playing around 20 minutes per game. These three will likely be called upon to take the next step and become more consistent options as starters. Kenny Frease is an x-factor for the Musketeers, the 7-footer was a top 50 recruit out of high school but only had four double digit games last year.

There are also a number of intriguing additions ($) to this year’s Xavier squad including Jordan Crawford of “I Dunked on LeBron” fame, Mark Lyons, and freshman forward Jeff Robinson.

The leading scorer after two games is transfer Jordan Crawford who is averaging 19 points per game.

Style of Play. Under Miller last year, Xavier played great offense and defense. Their field goal defense (43.5% eFG, 41.3% 2pt fg) and defensive rebounding were both in the top 20 nationally. On offense they did a tremendous job getting to the line and shot a remarkable 39.4% from three point range.

Expectations. Growing pains will likely be minimal as Mack is an assistant from Miller’s staff and will probably try to minimize change. Xavier should be prepared to keep rolling despite losing three significant contributors from last year’s team.

Florida State

michael-snaerIncoming freshman Michael Snaer will provide a scoring punch for Florida St.

Early Returns: Jacksonville (W 87-61), Stetson (W 80-38)
Last Year: 25-10 (10-6), First Round NCAA Loss to Wisconsin, Kenpom
Opposition Blogs: Tomahawk Nation

Last year’s Florida State team consisted of Toney Douglass and a supporting cast that consisted largely of underclassmen. Douglass was a special player who’s trophy case includes accolades such as ACC scoring title, 1st team all-ACC, and 1st team all-defense. Florida State was one of only 5 schools in the country with only one player who scored in double figures. Douglass is gone but Florida State has several potential replacements.

A pair of sophomore big men, Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton, were the number two and three scorers last year. They will no doubt continue to improve and provide Florida State with stellar interior play.

In the backcourt, the player to watch is incoming freshman Michael Snaer. Snaer is a top 10 recruit nationally and the 6-foot-4 guard will look to fill the scoring gap caused by Douglass’ departure.

Style of Play. Florida State was dominant on the defensive side of the ball last year. Their interior defense was strong and they had a top 15 defensive efficiency in the country.

Expectations. Florida State loses Douglass but with the addition of Michael Snaer they are still a force to be reckoned with. Florida State will be young but talented enough to make some noise late in the season.

Baylor

ekpeMichigan transfer Ekpe Udoh

Early Returns: Hartford (W 71-69), Southern (W 61-45)
Last Year: 24-15 (5-11), NIT Final Loss to PSU, KenPom

Last year’s Baylor team was up and down to say the least. They had some nice wins (Washington St., Arizona St, and Oklahoma St.) but they imploded in the middle of the Big 12 season, losing 10 of their last 12 conference games. They got it together in the conference tournament, stringing together three straight wins including Kansas and Texas. They rolled on to the NIT where they rattled off 4 straight wins before falling to Penn State in the NIT championship.

Baylor loses a trio of starters to graduation in Curtis Jerrells, Kevin Rogers, and Henry Dugat. Jerrells will be missed the most, the 6-foot-1 guard averaged 16 points, 5 rebunds, and 5 assists per game.

Baylor brings in a solid freshmen class highlighted by four-star recruits Nolan Dennis and Cory Jefferson. Former Michigan center Ekpe Udoh is also eligible to play this year. Udoh has had a couple monster games early on and also hit the buzzer beating game winner against Hartford.

LaceDarius Dunn provides the bulk of the scoring but he has never seen a shot he didn’t like. Dunn fires up tons of shots and only had 2 assists in all of Baylor’s Big 12 season last year.

Style of Play. Baylor was a very good offense team last year. They ranked in the top 15 in adjusted efficiency and shot the ball very well (52.8 eFG%) and shoot a lot of threes (40.1% 3PA/FGA). Their defense last year was run of the mill in just about every category but you can be sure with Ekpe’s addition that they will block plenty of shots next year.

Expectations. LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter will provide the bulk of the returning scoring. Both love the three point shot and shoot it at a high level. Overall Baylor definitely has some talent but they also have plenty of question marks. There is no telling how far along this young team will be in a November tournament.

Alabama

ANTHONY GRANT
Anthony Grant is introduced at Alabama (Courtesy of Birmingham News)

Early Returns: 1-1, Cornell (L 67-71), Jackson State (W 86-69)
Last Year: 18-14 (7-9), KenPom

Last year’s Alabama team was under .500 in a decidedly mediocre SEC.  They lose Alonzo Gee to graduation, the 6-foot-6 guard averaged 15 points and 7 rebounds per game.

Alabama’s 5-man incoming freshmen class is highlighted by Tony Mitchell and Shawn Kemp Jr. Senario Hillman (12ppg) and Mikhial Torrance will be some of first options in the backcourt while JaMychal Green had a big freshman year (10 ppg, 7.5 rpg) in the front court.

Alabama wasn’t very efficient on offense last year but they did crash the glass, rebounding 37.6% of their misses. On defense they defended the three point shot very well but weren’t very good on the defense glass.

Style of Play. Adding Anthony Grant to the mix will undoubtedly change the image of Alabama basketball. Grant’s VCU teams were known for their tenacious defense at VCU and consistently wreaked havoc in NCAA tournament play.

Expectations. It’s hard to expect a step up after graduating your best player but there is one huge reason for optimism in Tuscaloosa: Anthony Grant.  Grant is a tremendous coach and there is little doubt that he will build a winner at Alabama. The only issue is how long will it take. Michigan fans know all too well that the first year under a new coaching staff is not always a fun experience.

Iona

Early Returns: Boston (W 82-73), @ Hampton (W 68-63)
Last Year: 12-19, Kenpom

Iona is easily the worst team in the tournament. They lose two of their top three scorers, including their only double digit scorer, to graduation and even respectability looks a long ways off. Iona’s best win was a road win over Niagara and about the only thing they did well was get to the line.

The lone bright spot of last year’s team was freshman guard Scott Machado who averaged 9 points per game. Barring an impressive turnaround, 0-3 looks like the likely fate for Iona in Orlando.

Check back for more Old Spice Classic coverage over the coming week.

  • JB

    Dylan – This is a little off topic,…but I wondering how you think Central Michigan’s season/record this year will affect Zeigler’s decision?

  • http://www.umhoops.com Dylan

    JB: Definitely off topic :-) But, root for the Chips all year. As long as Ernie’s job is secure I think Michigan has a great chance. The biggest issue would be if his dad gets fired (which seems unlikely) and ends up at another high major school as an assistant. Then I think Trey follows him.

  • JB

    hahahaha yeah completely off topic i guess. I did think your old spice preview was great though.

  • AG2

    I’m most concerned about Creighton, Xavier, and Florida State. In the end I think FSU might be the team to beat because of their size and athleticism.

  • ZRL

    Indiana vs Ole Miss about to tip off. Good chance to see how much Indiana has improved.

  • JayRich

    i agree AG2, Florida state is tough because they are 1) athletic and 2.) have size. Not the best combo for UM to play against. But, I love out team and I am anticipating zero close games (7 points or less) in the tourney. Go Blue!

  • Tweeter

    Anyone watching the New Hampton game? The feed is terrible. I can barely tell what is happening. Also, interesting to hear the proper (or what I assume is the proper) pronunciation of Evan’s name. Suh-mah-trich. If I am hearing the announcer correctly which may not be the case. Ok now it sounds like its only two syllables. Smah-trich. The announcer keeps switching between two and three syllables. Either way it seems like he is having an off game.

  • maxwell’s demon

    Dylan – you have Creighton at 2-0. Great preview tho.

    I’m hoping we can get to B10 with 2 losses, 3 losses would be ok, 4 would would be pretty disappointing.

  • AG2

    Quick check, am I the only one who wants UNC to lose to Ohio State? Ohio State is Ohio State, but I hate ACC basketball about as much as I hate SEC football.

  • Tweeter

    eh. I would probably rather OSU win just because its good for the Big Ten and I hate Roy Williams, but I am not gonna cheer for them.

    Anyone notice that Penn St got beat by UNC-Wilmington? I know PSU is not gonna be great, but cmon UNCW lost to Appy St and GW already this year. The bottom of the Big Ten is looking like it is going to be really bad this year and I wonder how much that is going to effect the RPI?

  • maxwell’s demon

    completely agree ag2

  • bentley

    call me crazy, but I think the toughest game will be Creighton. Dayton is a pretty good team, and they played them tough. I agree with Dylan, 2-1 would be just fine. Our side of the bracket is much tougher than the other side. 3 NCAA tournament teams v. maybe 1 (FSU)

  • Joel

    @bentley you ARE crazy. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

  • http://www.ionahoops.com GuyF

    Iona’s better than you think they are. Not sure if they can beat FSU but they are capable of winning a game down there.

  • eddie

    Tweeter: great point. With NW hurting, PSU a one man show, IU still a ways a way, and Iowa just plain lost, it looks like the B10 could have a very bad bottom. Four teams with less than four wins each in conference does not bode well for the conference RPI. And it doesn’t look like those teams will be picking up too many out of conference wins.

  • Kevin

    I’ll never root for Ohio state for anything during Ohio state week! Go blue tomorrow AND Saturday!

  • Brad

    rough night for Turner so far…0 assists, 8 turnovers…and i think diebler travels every time he touches the ball

  • AG2

    My goodness, how is Buford still in the game? OSU is a total jumpshooting team.

  • Nick

    HAHA…possible triple double for Turner…10 turnovers…nice commentary by Vitale.

  • gpsimms

    well, I was kinda pulling for the buckeyes to take NC to the brink…but not so much.

    Also don’t laugh too hard at Turner’s triple double. Manny’s got one or two of those kind, too.

    On that note: I really thought Turner was better than Manny because I always felt like Manny could only have his best games when he got some love from the refs, whereas Turner’s strong handle/midrange game I thought gave him a better chance at creating in traffic without a friendly whistle.

    Well, I guess Turner has off days too. They really are very closely matched.

  • Nick

    Good point gpsimms….I think many has only had double digit turnovers once though, if I remember right. But I think that was against Ohio State, so I probably should keep my laughing to a minimum.

  • gpsimms

    made it respectable at least.

  • Nick

    *Manny

  • GregGoBlue

    I was at the OSU vs. UNC game tonight at the garden in head-to-toe Michigan gear. I don’t think I’ve ever been called a fag so many times in my life, save when I went down to Happy Valley in 2006.

    Ohio State had a 3 point % of 0 for a good part of the first half. And that’s not because they didn’t take any threes. Let’s hope Turner plays like that against us. Cal did not look like a ranked team at any point during the shellacking they received by Syracuse. Here’s to Meech movin’ on up in the polls.

    GO BLUE, BEAT OHIO STATE.

  • Tweeter

    Roy Williams on Ginyard, “He’s one of my pets.” Huh? I know he was just being cute but imagine if RR ever said something like that.

  • Erik

    I’m trying not to expect too much out of this years team but I really expect them to go 3-0 and I’d be a little disappointed with 2-1.

    First off, we are the best team there, hands down. We need to win it. Second of all, we have many tough games that I expect us to lose (Kansas, UConn, MSU twice….). I think we have to win this tournament to keep the RPI up through those tough losses later in the season.

    I realize we are young and are filling holes, but so are the other teams in the Old Spice Classic…I just feel like we need to win it more.

  • Tom, Too.

    I hope we are not overlooking Houston Baptist. They have a strong press and an inside presence….two things that we need to work on (Frosh at point and small ball)….

  • ToBlav

    to Tom Too, good point I hope the focus of the team is as you said. I am Tom too.

  • Gary

    Agreed that the bottom half of the B10 isn’t looking very good. That, and the fact that OSU looked awful for most of the game against NC, doesn’t bode well for the B10/ACC challenge. I suspect our losing streak will continue.

  • BlimpyBlue

    eddie,

    In response to your point that “four teams with less than four wins each in conference does not bode well for the conference RPI,” the conference RPI is unaffected by the in-conference performance of teams at the bottom of the standings. The conference RPI is only impacted by the performance of Big Ten teams in non-conference play.

  • hambone

    is anyone going to be in orlando? i live in miami and plan to drive up for thursday’s game at the very least…

  • rlc

    So IU just went Oh-fer-San-Juan. I’m afraid that once again this isn’t the year the Big 10 wins the Big 10-ACC challenge.

  • mark

    Creighton by at least 8. Watch out for their 3 point storm.

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