Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Look at the Legends Classic

Breaking Out the log5...
I noticed Ken Pomeroy ran a few log5 calculations for destination invitationals running this weekend. The four teams competing in the Legends Championship Bracket this weekend were not included, so I decided to run the numbers and see who is favored. Note, the log5 calculation is an exercise in conditional probability, not a Nostradamus-inpired quatrain. log5 measures probabilities of a set of outcomes relative to each other, and should not, therefore, be taken as an absolute prediction of the future...but hey, it's fun and I am going to be doing a live blog for Rush the Court, so this is a good preparation for the double header (Vanderbilt vs. North Carolina State at 6:30, followed by Texas vs. Oregon State at about 8:30) on Saturday night and the playoff round (winners vs. winners, losers vs. losers) on Monday night.

No. Carolina State32.52.2
Oregon State21.20.03

Though Vanderbilt is the only ranked team (#20 in the Coaches Poll) in the field, Texas, by virtue of the easier semi final opponent, gets a slight nod in the final. Counter intuitive no doubt, but with the NCAA-mandated seven game suspension of Vandy's 6-11 scoring and rebounding machine Festus Ezeli, the Long Horns might be the favored choice...on potential anyway.

How They Got Here (Secaucus, New Jersey)
Though some (mostly birds migrating North in the spring and South in the fall...) might believe the Meadowlands of New Jersey is an exotic destination, the Legends is not a "destination" tournament like the Old Spice Classic or Paradise Jam. Each team headed to the IZOD Center for Saturday's showdown hosted two teams in preliminary play. Unlike the NIT Tip-Off however, the host, who may not be a preliminary round winner, advances to the Championship Bracket in Secaucus.

Texas breezed by Boston University 82-46 on 11/13, then down Rhode Island by 10, 100-90, on 11/15. Vanderbilt lost their first preliminary round game, 58-71, to Cleveland State on 11/13, but beat Bucknell 80-68, on 11/15. North Carolina State hammered Morehead State 91-61 on 11/13, then squeaked by Princeton 61-58 on 11/14. The last team in the Championship bracket, Oregon State, barely broke a sweat disposing of Division II West Alabama, 93-60, then faced a slightly tougher test as they downed Hofstra by 10, 82-72 on 11/16.

Vanderbilt versus North Carolina State
The Commodores bring a junior and senior dominated squad to the IZOD. Even with Ezeli sidelined, the 'Dores will start five upperclassmen, starting with senior point guard Brad Tinsley and SEC scoring champion John Jenkins in the back court. Senior Jeffrey Taylor will start at the wing, while seniors (and New Jersey native) Lance Goulbourne and Steve Tchiengang will start as duel forwards. Stallings has used between 10 and 12 players in each of the Commodores' first three games, though he felt the reserves were effective only in Vandy's last game (versus Bucknell). First year (at Raleigh) coach Mark Gottfried will counter with experienced starters, CJ Leslie's NCAA-mandated suspension should be completed by the Vanderbilt game. If he does not start at the #3/#4 he will come off the bench pretty quickly. Sophomore Lorenzo Brown will start at the point with freshman CJ Williams at the #2. The front court spots will be filled by junior Scott Wood, with two of Richard Howell, Leslie, DeShawn Painter or Jordan Vendenberg, the last two considered legitimate centers. Though Gottfried emptied the bench in the Wolfpack's only blowout (a 30 point win over Morehead State), he seems more comfortable with his first eight-to-nine players.

Texas versus Oregon State
The Long Horns lost their entire starting lineup in the off season, but Coach Rick Barnes has earned his reputation as one of the Big 12's strongest recruiters. Barnes has junior J'Coven Brown, a McDonald's All American as a high schooler, available to start this season. Senior Alexis Wangmene has started twice at the $4/#5, with three of his prized freshmen, Jon Holmes, Myck Kabongo and Julien Lewis starting and giving the Horns a three guard/two forward lineup. Barnes used a nine and ten man rotation in Texas' two games, suggesting that a few more members of his seven man freshman class (Sterling Gibbs, Sheldon McClellan and Jaylen Bond) will get regular minutes for the time being. Barnes has also called senior Clint Chapman's number often. Coach Craig Robinson has settled into his starting five, starting with Jared Cunningham at the off guard and Ahmed Starks at the point. Both Cunningham and Starks have 1-2 years of experience. Juniors Joe Barton and Angus Brandt will hold down the #4/#5 spots, with sophomore Devon Collier at the #3. Kevin McShane (senior forward), Roberto Nelson (sophomore guard), Calle Barton (true freshman, guard) and Eric Moreland (red shirt freshman, forward) saw minutes in each Oregon State's games so far.

The View From Here
Expect Vandy and Texas to meet in the finals Monday, with the States, North Carolina and Oregon to meet in the consolation game. Of the underdogs, Gottfried's Wolfpack might have the better shot at an upset, as Vandy has a habit of unexpectedly freezing up on occasion. CJ Leslie might be the unknown factor Saturday, but the 'Dores are very deep and experienced, with or without Ezeli. I will be running a live blog courtside for Rush the Court, starting around 6:30 Saturday night. Drop by for a courtside perspective if you have the time.

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