With nearly all of the brackets now released for the 2010-11 season, here's a look at the top 10 college basketball tournaments that will take place in November and December.
The Jimmy V Classic isn't listed because it isn't played in tournament format. Instead, Kansas will face Memphis and Michigan State will take on Syracuse in a Dec. 7 doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.
Also not on this list is the 16-team Preseason NIT – mainly because there is a chance that one or more of the host schools (UCLA, Tennessee, Wake Forest and Villanova) will be beaten before advancing to the semifinals in New York on Nov. 24. But if all four of those schools make it, then obviously that tournament would rank near the top of this list, probably third behind the Maui Invitational and the CBE Classic.
Date: Nov. 22-24
Location: Lahaina Civic Center; Maui, Hawaii
Wichita State vs. Connecticut
Michigan State vs. Chaminade
Oklahoma vs. Kentucky
Virginia vs. Washington
Best first-round game: Don't be surprised if Wichita State – the favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference – upsets a Connecticut squad that lost Stanley Robinson, Jerome Dyson and Gavin Edwards.
Best potential second-round game: Washington will be out for blood if it ends up playing Kentucky in the semifinals. Kentucky freshmen Terrence Jones and Enes Kanter – who has yet to be deemed eligible – each committed to the Huskies before changing their mind and signing with Kentucky.
Projected final: A Michigan State-Kentucky championship showdown would be one of the top games of the preseason – especially if Spartans guard Kalin Lucas has fully recovered from an Achilles injury that sidelined him at the end of last season. Kentucky's youth would be tested early.
Top NBA prospect: Kanter and Connecticut point guard Kemba Walker are each projected as lottery picks in next summer's NBA draft by draftexpress.com. Lucas and teammate Durrell Summers are listed as second-rounders.
Top newcomer: Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight – who will replace John Wall at point guard – once occupied the No. 1 spot in Rivals.com's Class of 2010 rankings. He could be one of four freshmen to start for Kentucky along with Kanter, Jones and Doron Lamb.
Projected NCAA tournament teams: Michigan State, Kentucky, Washington
O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic
Date: Nov. 22-23
Location: Sprint Center; Kansas City, Mo. (semifinals/finals only)
Bracket (pre-determined semifinals)
Duke vs. Marquette
Kansas State vs. Gonzaga
Best semifinal game: Gonzaga has faced a lot of tough road tests during the history of its storied program. But not many will compare to the raucous environment that will greet them in Kansas City, where thousands of rowdy K-State fans will be pulling for the Wildcats to get by the Zags so they can face defending national champion Duke the following night.
Projected final: Kansas State has a legitimate shot at the 2011 national title – but no one outside of Manhattan, Kan., believes it. That would all change if the Wildcats knock off Duke in the championship game of the CBE Classic. Duke, which will enter the season as the No. 1-ranked team in the country, will still be trying to blend together a backcourt that includes senior Nolan Smith, transfer Seth Curry and freshman Kyrie Irving.
Top NBA prospect: Duke's Kyle Singler and Smith garner most of the attention. But Irving and forward Mason Plumlee are the Blue Devils projected to go the highest (Nos. 9 and 10, respectively) in next summer's NBA draft.
Top newcomer: We all know about Irving and Curry. Flying under the radar, though, is Marquette freshman Vander Blue, a point guard who could keep the Golden Eagles in the NCAA tournament picture despite the loss of Lazar Hayward.
Projected NCAA tournament teams: Duke, Kansas State, Gonzaga, Marquette
2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer
Date: Nov. 18-19
Location: Madison Square Garden; New York (semifinals/finals only)
Bracket (pre-determined semifinals)
Pittsburgh vs. Maryland
Illinois vs. Texas
Best semifinal game: Bruce Weber's Illini haven't won an NCAA tournament game since 2006 and were forced to settle for the NIT last season. But things should be different this year – especially if Illinois can pick up quality non-conference wins against schools such as Texas.
Projected final: Texas throttled Pittsburgh in last season's CBE Classic in Kansas City. But with Damion James and Dexter Pittman now in the NBA, things could be different in the Big Apple. Pittsburgh is one of the more experienced teams in the Big East. Texas will be ultra-talented, but young.
Top NBA prospect: Texas wing Jordan Hamilton could be a first-round draft pick next summer, but only if he has a breakthrough season as a sophomore.
Top newcomer: Texas freshman guard Cory Joseph was the eighth-ranked prospect in the Class of 2010 by Rivals.com. His teammate, forward Tristan Thompson, was ranked No. 17.
Projected NCAA tournament teams: Pittsburgh, Texas, Illinois
Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Date: Dec. 22-23, 25
Location: Stan Sheriff Center; Honolulu, Hawaii
Mississippi State vs. Washington State
San Diego vs. Baylor
Utah vs. Butler
Florida State vs. Hawaii
Best first-round game: Renardo Sidney won't be eligible yet for Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs' opener against Klay Thompson and Washington State should be entertaining. Look for the Cougars to be one of the country's more improved teams in 2010-11.
Best potential second-round game: The loss of Solomon Alabi hurts, but Florida State still boasts a stud in Chris Singleton and a potential stud in Michael Snaer. Whether they can lead the Seminoles past Shelvin Mack and 2010 national runner-up Butler is another question.
Projected final: The arrival of future lottery pick Perry Jones and the return of senior scoring machine LaceDarius Dunn have led to high hopes at Baylor. But the Bears will have problems if they don't find a serviceable replacement for point guard Tweety Carter. Perhaps someone will step up in the championship game against Butler.
Top NBA prospect: Some NBA mock draft have Baylor's Jones going as high as No. 2 next summer. Pretty lofty expectations for a guy who has yet to play a college game.
Top newcomer: Jones is the easy answer here. But a few others to watch are Florida State's Ian Miller and Okaro White. Both are top 75 recruits.
Projected NCAA tournament teams: Baylor, Butler, Florida State
Puerto Rico Tip-Off
Date: Nov. 18-19, 21
Location: Coliseo de Puerto Rico; San Juan, Puerto Rico
Davidson vs. West Virginia
Nebraska vs. Vanderbilt
Hofstra vs. North Carolina
Western Kentucky vs. Minnesota
Best first-round game: Minnesota could be in for a stiff challenge against a Western Kentucky squad that returns its second- and third-leading scorers from a team that finished 21-13 last season. The Hilltoppers have also added Oklahoma transfer Juan Patillo.
Best potential second-round game: With Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks in the NBA, West Virginia is counting on Kevin Jones to come up big this season. If he doesn't the Mountaineers could be in jeopardy of losing to John Jenkins, Jeff Taylor and Vanderbilt in the semifinals.
Projected final: Look for Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings to face off against his former mentor, Roy Williams, when the Commodores meet North Carolina in the championship game. This will be one of the biggest tests to date for standout Tar Heels freshman Harrison Barnes.
Top NBA prospect: Barnes, who chose North Carolina over Duke and Kansas, is projected as the No. 1 overall pick in next summer's NBA draft. Teammate John Henson, a sophomore forward, is also a potential lottery pick in either 2011 or 2012.
Projected NCAA tournament teams: North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, West Virginia
Old Spice Classic
Date: Nov. 25-26, 28
Location: Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex; Orlando, Fla.
Boston College vs. Texas A&M
Wisconsin vs. Manhattan
Georgia vs. Notre Dame
Temple vs. California
Best first-round game: Led by power forward Trey Thompkins, Georgia is surging under second-year coach Mark Fox. Notre Dame lost Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson, but Ben Hansbrough returns along with Tim Abromaitis, Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott. And Purdue transfer Scott Martin is fully recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him last season.
Best potential second-round game: Texas A&M vs. Wisconsin should be a close one from start to finish. Both teams lost their top perimeter scoring threats (Donald Sloan and Trevon Hughes), but the Aggies and Badgers should still be in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid come March.
Projected final: Look for Georgia to break into the Top 25 after beating Wisconsin for the championship. Bringing a trophy back to Athens should give the Bulldogs loads of momentum entering December and, eventually, SEC play.
Top NBA prospect: Thompkins is a potential lottery pick, but he isn't Georgia's only future pro. Draftexpress.com predicts that small forward Travis Leslie will be taken with the 20th overall pick next summer.
Top newcomer: Don't be surprised if Notre Dame freshman Eric Atkins receives a significant amount of playing time.
Projected NCAA tournament teams: Notre Dame, Georgia, Wisconsin, Temple
Date: Nov. 26-27
Location: Boardwalk Hall; Atlantic City, New Jersey
Georgia Tech vs. UTEP
Syracuse vs. Michigan
Best first-round game: Tim Floyd is trying to resurrect his career at UTEP, which should have a chance against a Georgia Tech squad that lost Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal to the NBA draft.
Projected final: This field looks impressive on paper, but Georgia Tech and Michigan are rebuilding. And Syracuse lost three starters. Still, the Orange should have enough to get by Floyd's Miners in the title game.
Top NBA prospect: Kris Joseph was one of the country's top sixth men last season. This year he'll play a more prominent role for Jim Boeheim's squad.
Top newcomer: At 7 feet and 270 pounds, Syracuse freshman center Fab Melo is the headliner of one of the nation's best recruiting classes.
Projected NCAA tournament teams: Syracuse
Date: Nov. 25-26, 28
Location: Anaheim Convention Center; Anaheim, Calif.
Virginia Tech vs. Cal-State Northridge
DePaul vs. Oklahoma State
Murray State vs. Stanford
Tulsa vs. UNLV
Best first-round game: DePaul may have been the worst team in the Big East last year, but the Blue Demons will have a different look under new coach Oliver Purnell. Oklahoma State may be vulnerable – especially early in the season – after losing James Anderson and Obi Muonelo.
Best potential second-round game: UNLV will be facing a Stanford squad that must make up for the scoring punch that was lost by the graduation of Landry Fields. The Runnin' Rebels, though, need Tre'Von Willis on the court if they hope to reach their full potential.
Projected final: Malcolm Delaney's decision to return for his senior season should make Virginia Tech one of the better teams in the ACC. The Hokies felt shafted when they were left out of last season's NCAA tournament. That won't happen again this year, especially if they beat UNLV in the title game of the 76 Classic.
Top NBA prospect: There aren't a lot of future pros in this field, or at least not when it comes to next summer's draft. Virginia Tech's Delaney is good enough to make a roster and could be a second-round pick.
Top newcomer: Stanford forward Dwight Powell is a five-star prospect who is ranked 25th in the Class of 2010 by Rivals.com.
Projected NCAA tournament teams: Virginia Tech, Murray State, UNLV
Las Vegas Classic
Date: Dec. 22-23
Location: Orleans Arena; Las Vegas
Bracket (predetermined semifinals)
Indiana vs. Northern Iowa
Colorado vs. New Mexico
Best first-round game: Indiana's showdown with Northern Iowa is extremely important for Hoosiers coach Tom Crean, who needs to show marked improvement during his third season in Bloomington. Indiana, which returns all five starters plus the injured Christian Watford, should be able to defeat a Northern Iowa squad that lost its three biggest stars to graduation.
Projected final: If Colorado gets past New Mexico it may be able to escape with a victory over Indiana in the championship game. New Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle inherited a cast of returnees that was showing loads of improvement under former coach Jeff Bdzelik, who left for Wake Forest. Colorado could finish as high as sixth in the Big 12 this season.
Top NBA prospect: Colorado may have the top two players in the entire tournament in Alec Burks and Cory Higgins. Burks is a projected first-round pick, and Higgins averaged 18.9 points last season.
Top newcomer: Indiana (Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo) and New Mexico (Alex Kirk) each signed players off the Rivals 150 list.
Projected NCAA tournament teams: New Mexico
South Padre Island Invitational
Date: Nov. 26-27
Location: South Padre Island Convention Center; South Padre Island, Texas
Bracket (predetermined semifinals)
BYU vs. South Florida
St. Mary's vs. Texas Tech
Best first-round game: Successful as its been the past three seasons, St. Mary's could be facing a buzzsaw in Texas Tech, which returns five of its top six scorers from last season. Look for Mike Singletary and John Roberson to come up huge in this one.
Projected final: A victory over BYU would give Texas Tech loads of momentum as it attempts to earn its first NCAA tournament berth under Pat Knight. But if Jimmer Fredette gets hot, he's good enough to beat the Red Raiders on his own.
Top NBA prospect: There aren't many players in America who can score like Fredette, who averaged 22.1 points last season. South Florida's Gus Gilchrist has an NBA body, but his work ethic has been questioned.
Top newcomer: Texas Tech freshman guard Javarez Willis is ranked as the 74th-best prospect in the Class of 2010 by Rivals.com.
Projected NCAA tournament teams: BYU, Texas Tech