Feast Week Meaning for College Basketball
College basketball’s “feast week” features special out-of-conference match-ups. There are a few factors that make these pairings special. For one, similar to the college basketball tournament itself, these holiday tournaments represent a cross-section of conferences big and small. Another special factor is that games are played on a truly neutral floor. This means that neither team has home court advantage. This very rarely happens during the college basketball regular season. In the case of Kansas playing in Kansas City’s Sprint Center, or Duke playing in New York’s Madison Square Garden, there are times that blue bloods are advertised as playing at a “neutral site,” but those places actually represent a hotbed of fan support for those respective programs. Third, the championship games (and even third place consolation games) often serve as a defacto playoff game. It may determine which teams survive the famed “bubble.” Because of the reasons mentioned above, committee members will be looking back to November’s rare match-ups to decipher which team has a resume worthy of a tournament invite. Lastly, there is the element of rawness to these tournaments. You’ll see a lot of rosters loaded with new talent, but still without ironing the roles within their team. That makes for an exciting watch!
Below are eye test analysis of games, a work-in-progress on 11/24
2K Empire Classic
The 2K Empire Classic’s invite list reads like a veiled excuse to have Georgetown battle Duke in a championship game. And that’s exactly what happened. Coach Patrick Ewing’s Hoya squad looked like a poised group. Its guards went on the offensive in the first half, and Georgetown actually led by about 10 points early. In the end, Duke’s talent (and therefore #1 national ranking at the time) took over. However, Georgetown’s electric play under the bright lights should be noted. Mainly, sophomore point guard James Akinjo accelerated for 19 points and 6 assists in 35 minutes of play. He made the audacious move of wearing #3 as a Georgetown point guard…mildly acceptable.
Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament
The Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament featured a team no one is talking about. Ironically, that team is the national champion. Virginia returns more talent than it gets credit for. Kihei Clark and Mamadi Diakite are names you’d recognize. But fans should be excited about Jay Huff this season with long-time center Jack Salt graduated. Huff brings more range and scoring pop. Jay Huff had some big points in a pivitol stretch again Vermont. This may be the marquee game worth taking a second look at come March 2020.
Michigan State losing to Virginia Tech might be the headline of this entire week. We saw glimpses that Michigan State might not be the no-doubter #1 seed as it struggled against Kentucky’s athleticism in the first game of the season. And then Virginia Tech happened. The V-Tech Hokies won wire-to-wire against Michigan State by swinging the ball all around the horn and daring to hit 3’s all night. Spartans coach Tom Izzo sat Cassius Winston midway through the first half as he had 2 fouls. That ended up biting them in the Sparty. Winston committed his second foul at the 9:56 mark. They trailed 17-18 at that point. It looked like Virginia Tech seized all the momentum in the building for the next quarter, hitting two 3-pointers and taking a 32-28 lead into the locker-room. Virginia Tech now gets the luxury of playing the rest of the season with house money, with a 6-0 record at a top 5 win on a neutral floor already on its resume. If the Hokies played to a .500 record in the ACC, it would be hard to argue against them getting into the NCAA tournament. As the broadcasters said on the telecast, this team was put together with 3 players having to reclassify in order to make a roster (after the offseason departure of coach Buzz Williams). New coach Mike Young had made noise during his tenure at tiny Wofford. In this “Maui Wowie,” he proved his cinderella story isn’t done being written yet.
Myrtle Beach Invitational
The championship game from the Myrtle Beach Invitational was HUGE. The 17th ranked Villanova Wildcats took on the 24th ranked Baylor Bears. When you do the math, you can see how the winner may be rewarded with a 3 or 4 seed in the Big Dance, and the loser a 5 or 6 seed, if things remain mostly equal going forward. The winner was Baylor. And it seemed that the Bears learned from their disappointing loss to the Washington Huskies in another early season yet gigantic non-conference opportunity. Coach Scott Drew got more shooters into the game late and made defensive subs as needed. The Bears actually made it look easy in the final four minutes against a very young Villanova bunch.