College Hoops Thursday: Your Commentary
There are just eleven games on the Thanksgiving Day schedule with tournaments beginning in both Orlando (Old Spice Classic) and Anaheim (76 Classic) while play continues at the Great Alaska Shootout. The showcase game: #16 Minnesota taking on #10 Butler in the third quarterfinal of the day. This is going to be the first test of the season for Tubby Smith's team, who hasn't won any of their three games by less than 25 points. Four Golden Gophers are averaging in double figures, led by guard Lawrence Westbrook's 18.5 ppg.
The perimeter play should be outstanding with Westbrook, Devoe Joseph, Rodney Williams and Damian Johnson going up against a deep group of Butler perimeter options. Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack get the bulk of the national hype and with good reason, but the Bulldogs can also look to players such as Willie Veasley, Zach Hahn and Ronald Nored. Inside look for Minnesota's Ralph Sampson II to have his hands full with Matt Howard, the reigning Horizon League Player of the Year. This should be a very good game to watch while digesting all that food.
As for the Old Spice Classic a good game to check out could be Creighton taking on #15 Michigan in the first quarterfinal of the day. The Blue Jays, led by P'Allen Stinnett and featuring five players scoring at least ten points per game, are expected to be in the thick of the Missouri Valley title race. But they're going to have to deal with Manny Harris, Courtney Sims and an offensive attack that has brought John Beilein success in every stop of his coaching career. The Valley hasn't been a two-bid league for a couple of seasons, but a win here could mean something down the line for both the Blue Jays' and the conference's profile.
Creighton vs. #15 Michigan (Orlando) - Noon - ESPN2
#8 West Virginia vs. Long Beach State (Anaheim) - 2PM - ESPNU
Marquette vs. Xavier (Orlando) - 2PM - ESPN2
Texas A&M vs. #19 Clemson (Anaheim) - 4:30PM - ESPN2
Alabama vs. Baylor (Orlando) - 6:30PM - ESPN2
#16 Minnesota vs. #10 Butler (Anaheim) - 8:30PM - ESPN2
Florida State vs. Iona (Orlando) - 9PM - ESPNU
Portland vs. UCLA (Anaheim) - 10:30PM - ESPN2
North Carolina A&T @ New Mexico State - 9PM
Nicholls State @ Alaska-Anchorage (Great Alaska) - 9PM
Houston vs. Oklahoma (Great Alaska) - 11:30PM
Butler over Minnesota: It's tough to see either team winning in a blowout; in fact, this game looks to be a toss-up that will likely come down to the final possession. Look for the versatility of Gordon Hayward to win out in the end; Minnesota could also have issues with the Sampson II/Howard matchup due to the difference in experience and Howard's ability to step away from the basket. Bulldogs by three although it wouldn't be a surprise if the Golden Gophers won.