Inside the Bracket: Charleston Classic
Favorite: New Mexico – Former head coach Steve Alford bolted for UCLA, but the Lobos return several starters from a team that earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament last spring. Although untested to this point, UNM is averaging 98 ppg in two contests. The good news: New Mexico’s strongest challenge will probably come from Massachusetts in the semifinals. The bad news: This year’s field doesn’t appear to offer the Lobos many additional chances for high-end victories.
Contender: Massachusetts – The Minutemen have been close to an NCAA bid in recent years and hope to break through in 2014. With early victories over Boston College and LSU, UMass has positioned itself for a successful non-conference slate. Chaz Williams has been superb, averaging 21 ppg in three contests. Cady Lalanne is averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds in that same span. If the Minuteman can get past Nebraska in the opener, they will likely get a shot at New Mexico in the semifinals. Win that one and it could be a November to remember in Amherst.
Biggest Opportunities: UMass / Temple – For reasons already mentioned, Massachusetts would love the opportunity to battle New Mexico and play for the Classic crown. Temple limps into it’s opener against Clemson having lost back-to-back games to Kent State and Towson. It won’t get easier when American Athletic Conference plays begins. The Owls need to right the ship.
Best Opening Matchup: UMass vs. Nebraska – Big Ten vs. Atlantic 10. Nebraska is looking to change its basketball status in one of the country’s toughest conferences for hoops. It’s worth mentioning that the Cornhuskers held high-flying Florida Gulf Coast to 55 points in a 24-point victory to open the season. In fact, they have won all three of their games by at least 15 points. The Minutemen will provide the Huskers a stern test; a good way to open the event.
Action begins at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday (Nov. 21). Maybe you can catch a sneak peak during lunch.