Our final Preseason Tournament of the College Hoops season is full of intrigue. Will USC finally live up to expectations? How good is Middle Tennessee? Can Miami continue to dominate? Was the Princeton upset at USC a fluke? Will New Mexico State make some noise? It's all broken down in the predictions.
8. Akron - The Zips bring a 6-2 record to Honolulu, but have not won a game away from home yet. Their most notable wins are against Fort Wayne and Chattanooga. I expect Akron to be pretty competitive here and can see them getting a win in the losers bracket. Daniel Utomi is off to a huge start, averaging over 20 points and 7 rebounds per game. He will be fun to watch.
7. Davidson - Live by the 3, die by the 3. That's how Bob McKillop's bunch rolls. They also really take care of the basketball. At last check, Davidson is the NCAA leader in Assist to Turnover ratio. If the Wildcats get hot, they can upset anyone in this field. They are a bit small though, and I see them having matchup problems in the opener against NMSU. I think they salvage a victory over Akron to leave Hawaii on a high note.
6. Princeton - The Tigers enter this tournament feeling amazing after the upset overtime win at USC on Tuesday. Tigers have to turn around and face a tough Middle Tennessee team in the tournament opener. Princeton loves to run back cuts and use the shot clock effectively (sounds familiar right?). Expect all of their games to be tight ones, but I ultimately have them finishing 6th.
5. Hawaii - Hawaii is always tough to beat at home, and they love to knock off Power teams in this tournament. They have their chance right off the bat against Miami. It would be a huge win for Hawaii to win that, I think it stays close but they fall short. Hawaii will bounce back in a strong way by knocking off Davidson and Princeton.
4. New Mexico State - Texas Southern transfer Zach Lofton has been a blessing this season for the Aggies. He is doing it all, averaging 19.5 ppg and 4.5 rpg. Lofton will look to lead the Aggies on a great run in this tournament, but ultimately they will fall short after winning the opening game over Davidson.
3. USC - I've had the opportunity to see a lot of USC already this season and I am at the point where I don't feel comfortable picking them to reach the Championship Game. We all know they have the talent, but something is off with this bunch right now. This is a big opportunity for the Trojans to come together and get the season back on track. But I think running into Middle Tennessee is the type of team that will really frustrate USC. I expect them to finish here and take care of NMSU in the finale.
2. Middle Tennessee - The Blue Raiders come into this tournament with two wins over the SEC, four road wins, and a sweep of FGCU. Both of their losses were close ones to Auburn and Belmont. Middle Tennessee in recent years has really risen to the occasion in tournaments or games against "bigger" programs. I expect no different here. Be sure to watch the Semifinal game against USC (baring upsets).
1. Miami - Jim Larranaga's group has been laser focused this season despite potential FBI distractions. The Canes bring a perfect 9-0 record to the Diamond Head Classic. Five players (Dewan Huell, Dejan Vasiljevic, Bryce Brown, Jr., Lonnie Walker IV, and Ja'Quon Newton) all average in double figure scoring. Miami as a team is fourth in the nation defensive efficiency. The Canes will be really challenging to beat and they are my pick to take home the trophy.