The first of many highly anticipated early season tournaments, the 2K Sports Classic provided two great nights of college basketball, with three teams capable of playing deep into March, and a fourth that might just be OK. While it all may be irrelevant eight weeks from now, here what we learned.
- Pittsburgh might actually have reliable bigs - On paper, the Panthers seemed a bit too guard-heavy for me. But then they outrebounded Maryland 49-28 and freshman forward Talib Zanna led them in scoring on Thursday night. Ashton Gibbs was named tournament MVP and is Jamie Dixon's most important player, but as we all know this a program that emphasizes winning over producing pros. These guys thrive under the idea that the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Gary McGhee, well we're still not so sure he resembles a starting center on an elite team.
Despite going 0-2, Maryland is a top-tier ACC team - After struggling to defeat College of Charleston, the Terps appeared to lack firepower sans Greivis Vasquez. But while Adrian Bowie shouldn't be the starting point guard, Gary Williams has a nice backcourt to work with, specifically Cliff Tucker and Sean Mosley. Just like Seth Davis , I think the Terps will find themselves in just about every game this season despite struggling on the offensive end. They currently have a 54.8 percent true-shooting percentage, largely attributable to a a combined 7-32 from three-point land and 27-48 from the charity stripe in their two games at Madison Square Garden. Nobody likes watching that.
Rick Barnes has a real team - As opposed to a collection of talent that he didn't really know how to manage (take a look at what Avery Bradley said to ESPN's Chad Ford this summer) Barnes has a rotation that lends itself more to tournament success than last year's squad. Freshman Tristan Thompson looks like he's a free-throw shot away from being a dominating force in the Big 12, and Jordan Hamilton is learning the importance of shot selection. Barnes felt some heat following last year's meltdown, now he's got a team that's interested in learning how to play together. Had the Longhorns won this mini-tournament, it would have likely led to comparisons to last year's Syracuse team - the surprise 2010 2K Sports Classic champion who emerged to become a top 10 mainstay in the polls.
Demetri McCamey will single-handedly win and lose a few games for Illinois - The Fighting Illini's top player possesses a nasty handle, and is on a short list of players who can consistently score off the dribble. Problem is, McCamey sometimes likes to dribble a bit too much. No one tracks dribbles-per-possession, but McCamey would probably top that list. He currently boasts a 25 possession percentage, meaning he touches the ball one out of every four Illini possessions in a game. Sure you would expect that out of a point guard, but McCamey may fall victim to a few inopportune five second calls or careless turnovers this season.
Dick Vitale doesn't know that Findlay Prep isn't a real school - Vitale wouldn't shut up about the powerhouse that was Findlay Prep, a Las Vegas-based Oak Hill knock-off whose entire student body is comprised of the basketball team and was nearly shut down over the summer. Part of the Henderson International School, Findlay's Godfather is a local car dealer magnate. Illinois' DJ Richardson, and Texas' Cory Joseph and the aforementioned Thompson spent a year here en route to college ball. Sure it's churning out Division I prospects at a high rate, but the players come from around the country (Canada too) to get their act together and get a scholarship. Perhaps I am missing something here, but I think Vitale is missing a lot more. This team has little in common with other top high school teams.