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November 23, 2009

SCS.comWith Turkey Day coming up on Thursday, I’m sure you’re all gearing up for a day of family, high-quality food and football.

About that last thing—have you seen the Thanksgiving NFL schedule? If not, let me fill you in. The noon game features the Green Bay Packers and the hapless Detroit Lions on FOX. After that, Dallas will slap around the 3-7 Oakland Raiders on CBS.

And in the only competitive game of the day, the Giants and Broncos round out the night with a battle at Invesco Field. Of course, you’ll need to find an illegal internet stream to watch that one, as it’ll be broadcasted by the evil NFL Network.

Looks like you’ll be watching college basketball with me all day. That’s the way Thanksgiving was meant to be spent, so let me fill you in on the day’s action, as well as the rest of the week.

But first, my Opening Thoughts:


Thought 1: Kick-em out

We’re spoiling our youth with our lack of discipline these days. For example, I just learned yesterday during the third-place game in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off that players are allowed to kick each other in the head and avoid ejection from the game. Yep, Jamar Samuels of Kansas State kicked Dayton’s Kurt Huelsman in the head near the end of the contest and then remained in the game. A technical foul, however, was assessed and Samuels’ idiotic move allowed the Flyers to cut the deficit to three points, though the Wildcats eventually won 83-75.

Samuels’ kick wasn’t even that vicious, but it was still a kick, and a kick to the head at that! Huelsman appeared fine and I’m not advocating that Samuels be suspended for any lengthy period of time or anything. This wasn’t anything like Aubrey Coleman stomping on Chase Budinger’s face last winter. I am simply asking that players who kick other players on the court be ejected from the game. Is that really too unreasonable of a request?

Thought 2: Fall of the Shootout

There was once a time when the Great Alaska Shootout was my favorite Thanksgiving tournament. Nothing beats college basketball in the wee hours of the morning, especially when those games feature some of the nation’s most prestigious powerhouses. The Shootout used to be a premier tournament, and now it’s been relegated to almost nothing. This year’s field has been cut from eight teams to six because of the tournament’s falling popularity. And get this—it took a last-minute commitment from Nicholls State to round of that six-team field.

This year’s Great Alaska Shootout still features Oklahoma, San Diego State, Houston and Washington State, but the tourney can only be found on the somewhat-obscure Fox College Sports stations. ESPN used to carry the tournament.

Thankfully, I receive the FCS channels, which means I may tune in from time-to-time to the action in Alaska. Still, the Shootout is such a far cry from what it used to be. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it fold within the next few seasons.

Thought 3: Baffled by Oregon State

Oregon State entered this season as the epitome of a sleeper team. Craig Robinson inherited a team that finished winless in the Pac-10 in 2007-08 and won a College Basketball Invitation in his first season. Overall, the Beavers finished 18-18, won seven Pac-10 games and surprised just about everybody by beating USC and sweeping California. So with the bulk of last year’s roster returning, how in the world could Oregon State start this season 1-3 with losses to Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Texas Tech and Sacramento State?

Adding to the disaster, the Beavers lost by 24 points to Corpus Christi and fell behind by 22 points at halftime to Sacramento State. The Red Raiders, by the way, won three games in the Big 12 last year, and I’ve privately predicted them to finish dead last in the conference this year (though many experts consider Pat Knight’s team a potential surprise).

It’s as disastrous a start for any NCAA tournament hopeful that I can ever remember. During Saturday’s Sacramento State loss, Robinson benched several veterans in favor of freshmen. Senior center Roeland Schaftenaar played just 14 minutes and junior Calvin Haynes shot 3-12 from the field. Seth Tarver has been the only reliable upperclassman, but he can’t carry this team alone.

Robinson has recruited well for the future and showed obvious promise with last year’s turnaround. However, he’s far from a proven commodity. Don’t forget that Robinson came to Oregon State after a 30-28 record in just two seasons at Brown.



Paradise Jam
Tennessee vs. Purdue, Championship Game: Monday 7:30 p.m. FCS

Tennessee didn’t turn in a strong performance in yesterday’s semi-finals after slipping by DePaul, who did not win a game in Big East play last year. Purdue overcame a slow start in the semis to blow past St. Joseph’s. Now, the Boilermakers and Vols will meet in a top-10 showdown that might just be the game of the week. With Purdue’s stifling defense, Tennessee may not improve on yesterday’s .373 percent mark from the field.

Prediction: Purdue 70, Tennessee 63

CBE Classic
Key Teams—Texas, Iowa, Pittsburgh, Wichita State: Monday and Tuesday

Texas shouldn’t have much of a problem winning the CBE Classic this year. Wichita State, located not far from the tournament’s host site in Kansas City, probably has a better shot than either Iowa or even Pittsburgh to knock off Texas. That sounds a little crazy, but Gregg Marshall has the Shockers’ program on the upswing. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is struggling to replace last year’s departed stars, and Iowa has been nothing short of dreadful.

Maui Invitational
Key Teams: Maryland, Cincinnati, Vanderbilt, Colorado, Gonzaga, Arizona, Wisconsin: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

Tomorrow’s first round match-up between Cincinnati and Vanderbilt will be a dandy. I’m also interested to see how a new-look Arizona squad under head coach Sean Miller looks this week. Nic Wise is one of the more underrated point guards around with his ability to score and simply make things happen on the court.

Pre-Season NIT
Key Teams: Duke, Arizona State, Connecticut, LSU: Wednesday and Friday

Friday’s championship is likely to feature a rematch of the 1999 National Championship game. No, Rip Hamilton and Elton Brand won’t be suiting up, but it’ll still be worth a look.

76 Classic
Key Teams: West Virginia, Texas A&M, Clemson, Minnesota, Butler, Portland, UCLA: Friday and Saturday

I’ve always called this tournament the Anaheim Classic, but what do I know. Perhaps the friendly confines of Southern California will help UCLA get back on track. With the recent suspension of Nikola Dragovich, however, that’s not such an easy task. West Virginia’s chances of taking a title are diminished without Devin Ebanks, who’s battling a personal issue currently. I’m most looking forward to Friday’s Texas A&M/Clemson battle.

South Padre Invitational
Key Teams: Missouri, Mississippi State, Old Dominion, Richmond: Friday and Saturday

Before the surprising loss to Rider, Mississippi State probably would have been the favorite to win this tournament in South Padre. The Bulldogs, along with Missouri, will both have stiff first-round tests against Old Dominion of the CAA and Richmond of the A-10.

Old Spice Classic
Key Teams: Creighton, Michigan, Marquette, Xavier, Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, Iona: Thursday, Friday and Sunday

Here’s my kind of tournament. The Old Spice Classic isn’t as star-studded as recent years, but the field is deep from top to bottom. I’m predicting a Michigan/Florida State final, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Creighton knock off the Wolverines in the first round. I wrote about Dana Altman’s team in my column last week, and I’m not backing down from my positive stance. Creighton has the talent level to hang with anyone in this tournament.

Florida State at Florida
Tuesday 6

This rivalry is better in football, but Tuesday’s game is important for Florida to gain a little confidence during the non-conference season.

Prediction: Florida 77, Florida State 72

Cornell at Syracuse
Tuesday 6

Syracuse is the team everyone’s talking about these days because of the Orange’s smackdown of California and North Carolina in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament. Cornell has already won at Alabama and Massachusetts.

Prediction: Syracuse 75, Cornell 62

Siena at St. John’s
Friday 4:30

Siena is the better New York team in this match-up. Plain and simple.

Prediction: Siena 80, St. John’s 76

Nevada at VCU
Friday 6:30

This is the kind of game both teams need to win to be considered for an at-large bid come March.

Prediction: VCU 79, Nevada 65

Louisville at UNLV
Saturday 3:00

UNLV beat Louisville at Freedom Hall last year during the Cardinals’ early season swoon. Now, can UL return the favor?

Prediction: Louisville 83, UNLV 73

Last week’s prediction record: 5-4
Overall: 5-4

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