Whether it is before, during, or after a “pre-season” tournament it can be very difficult to compare the quality of the teams in one tournament against the fields of any, or all, of the other tournaments. At this point in the season, even if teams look good in the rankings now, we have no idea how they’ll finish the season.
Nevertheless, it’s interesting water cooler conversation to compare these tournaments against each other. It’s important to note that I am not arguing that my pick is the best tournament throughout its history, but I believe this year it is the best tournament. Without further ado, let me explain to you why the 2010 edition of the Old Spice Classic has the most quality, competitive field of any “pre-season” tournament in 2010.
First, let’s run down the field for this season’s Old Spice Classic. The eight teams are (in order of appearance) Boston College, Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Manhattan, Georgia, Notre Dame, Temple, and California. Seven of the eight teams are from “BCS” conferences, and Manhattan is from the always basketball competitive MAAC.
Wisconsin is a perennial power in the Big Ten, and Georgia possesses the pre-season SEC player of the year in Trey Thompkins. While none of these teams jump out with their name or ranking, this field is full of the type of teams that make for winning NCAA tournament picks. Also, especially in college basketball, it’s important to keep in mind how much the polls can change between now and March. It seems like there is always a team or two that is crowned (with apologies to Denny Green) at this time of year only to comprehensively implode after New Year’s Day. Basically, the first point of my argument is that this tournament is filled with teams that will be a tough out in March. If you’ve read my previous articles you are no doubt aware that I don’t put much stock in pre-season rankings and predictions. It’s true. You won’t look at any of these teams and say, “Wow, I need to schedule my day around the Temple-California game.” But when the brackets come out in March you are going to wish you sat down to watch this tournament.
The second prong of my argument is that this is a tournament that was created with a big assist from ESPN. They are devoting significant broadcast resources to this tournament as part of “Feast Week.” In addition, this tournament receives coverage on ESPN 3D – which is not cheap. That makes me believe that ESPN has not filled this tournament with lousy teams that are going to make people turn away from their TV in revulsion. These will be competitive teams in this tournament, and ESPN is betting on that. They’re betting that true basketball fans will tune into this tournament even though it does not feature blue blood programs like Duke, North Carolina, or Kentucky.
In fact, UNC is an interesting case study and helps prove my point that big name programs do not a quality tournament field make. With a lofty pre-season ranking of eighth it is easy to assume they would add significant cachet to a pre-season tournament. At least, you would have thought that before they lost two straight in their tournament earlier this week.
So, my vote is for the Old Spice Classic. It’s a little bit off the radar, but I’m an optimist, and I like to believe that off the radar is pretty good. Whatever tourney you pick, enjoy quality games and a cold one. And, try not spill any gravy on your shirt.