Looking over the national sports briefs Saturday afternoon, I was happy to see that the last puzzle pieces have come together for where Atlantic Coast Conference teams will be playing in early-season basketball events.
I know, I know. Football is only getting into swing these days and I’m already talking hoops. But you can love football and still look forward to basketball.
The early tournaments may not draw the audience of March Madness, but they often result in remarkable displays of skill between outstanding teams, certainly the best basketball you’ll see in most cases until conference place heats up in January and sometimes the best contests to be had before the Final Four.
The early tournaments help to establish who’s going to be a real contender, who has work to do and who isn’t a legitimate threat. Teams will evolve over the course of the season, of course.
Here’s what ACC teams have in store during these early tournaments this year:
— Duke will launch its bid to repeat as national champions with the 2K Classic, the finals of which will be Nov. 28 in Rhode Island. Last year’s runner-up, the Wisconsin Badgers will be part of the field, as will Georgetown and always feisty Virginia Commonwealth.
— N.C. State will play in the Legends Classic, with the finals in Brooklyn, New York, on Nov. 24. The field will include Arizona State, LSU and Marquette.
— North Carolina has national title ambitions of its own. The Tar Heels will compete at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City with the finals on Nov. 24. I’m underwhelmed by their opposition, which will include Kansas State, Missouri and Northwestern.
— Wake Forest needs to show it can return to winning ways after some tough seasons. The Deacons should have their hands full at the Maui Invitation, with finals on Nov. 25. Other contenders include Indiana, Kansas, St. Johns, UCLA, UNLV and Vanderbilt. I’m not too hopeful for the squad from Winston-Salem, but I’m sure Hawaii will be enjoybable.
— Syracuse (I still have to pinch myself to recall that the much-loathed Orange is in the ACC) will play in the Battle 4 the Bahamas, ending on Nov. 27. Opposition will include Charlotte, Connecticut, Gonazaga, Michigan, Texas, Texas A&M and Washington. This should be a good one, so long as the late fall tropical weather doesn’t intervene.
— Notre Dame is also headed to the tropics, but at least staying stateside with the Nov. 29 finals of the Advocare Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (That’s Disney World, folks.) The Irish will compete against the likes of Dayton, Iowa, USC, Wichita St., Xavier and Alabama.
— Boston College had a similar idea but heads west to Anaheim, the mouse’s home out left, for the Directv Wooden Legacy, which will wind up on Nov. 29. BC will face Arizona, Michigan St. and Providence, among others.
— Georgia Tech buzzes into Brooklyn on Nov. 26 and 27, for the NIT Season Tipoff, which used to be in Madison Square Garden, but has switched boroughs this season. The Yellow Jackets may find themselves smoked out early against Arkansas, Stanford and Villanova.
— Virginia Tech will stay in ACC territory, playing at the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Florida on Nov. 27 and 28. The location is a short drive from Tallahassee and will also host Illinois, Iowa State and UAB.
— The Seminoles are heading further souther for the Nov. 20-23 Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. The field looks pretty weak to me, so they’d better win it if they want to be taken seriously. The opposition includes DePaul, Hofstra, Indiana St., Norfolk St., Ohio, South Carolina and Tulsa.
— Miami is also crossing the Caribbean for the Puerto Rico Tip Off, Nov. 19-22, in San Juan. The Hurricanes will contend with Butler, Minnesota, Mississippi St., Temple, and Utah.
— The Clemson Tigers are rolling the dice with a trip to the MGM Grand Main Event, Nov. 23-25, in Las Vegas. The name seems pretty over-hyped to me with a field that includes Creighton, UMass and Rutgers.
— The Virginia Cavaliers hope to dance the Charleston in that South Carolina city’s classic, Nov. 19-22. It’s an interesting field but shouldn’t be too tough for a team that’s expected to dominate this season. Others dancing include Bradley, George Mason, Oklahoma St., Ole Miss and Seton Hall.
— Louisville is avoiding the bracketed tournaments and playing in the Brooklyn Hoops Classic, a round-robin event on Nov. 27 in the namesake NYC borough. Columbia and St. Louis are among those joining the Cardinals.
— Holy Panthers, Batman! Elsewhere in New York City, Pittsburgh will make its round-robin tournament foray Dec. 20 in the Gotham Classic. The lineup of suspects for that battle includes Davidson and Western Carolina.
Reach Sports Editor Frank Taylor at 910-816-1977 or [email protected]