Quick question. What sport do you associate with Thanksgiving?
Your answer, most likely stemming from a long history of big meals and family gatherings, is football. But it's beginning to look a lot like college basketball if you are willing to modify your traditions and television-watching habits. There are 19 early season college basketball tournaments in November and 10 televised games to chose from on Turkey Day.
This is the first year of the Wooden Legacy tournament, which is a blended version of the John R. Wooden Classic and the Anaheim Classic. The Wooden Classic previously was a showcase of four teams, typically scheduled as a doubleheader with each team playing a single game. The new format is a true tournament with eight teams playing three games each over a four-day period. Opening round games start on November 28 at Cal State Fullerton and the final round will finish up at the Honda Center in Anaheim on December 1.
The 2013 field is made up of Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton, College of Charleston, Creighton, George Washington, Marquette, Miami and San Diego State. Creighton and Marquette are both ranked in the Top 25 AP Poll while Arizona State and George Washington are among others receiving votes. This lineup represents a diverse group of schools from the ACC, A10, Big East, Mountain West and Pac-12. Sporting News ranks the Wooden Legacy as one of their top three tournaments to watch. The 12 games will air on the ESPN family of channels.
Who to Watch
If you are a night owl or simply don't need to get to bed early for Black Friday Christmas shopping, the Thursday nightcap of Creighton versus Arizona State is worth staying up for. Tip-off is 11 pm EST, so you should have the remote to yourself and be able to enjoy watching a couple of prolific scorers who may be below your radar. Creighton's Doug McDermott should be no secret as he is a returning First Team All-American, national player of the year candidate on the Naismith watch list and Preseason Big East Player of the Year. But he plays for a small school in Omaha so not everyone has seen him. Jahii Carson is a super sophomore for Arizona State who is also on the Naismith list. He was the Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year and is the leading returning scorer in the conference. He recently put up 40 points against UNLV to lead ASU to a 86-80 victory.
Marquette and Arizona State played on Monday, November 25 in what could be the first of two meetings in six days if both teams advance to the championship of the Wooden Legacy. Arizona State led by 10 at halftime and held on to beat Marquette by just two points. Under Buzz Williams, the Marquette Golden Eagles have been to three straight Sweet Sixteens. In a realigned new Big East conference, Marquette is the favorite to capture the conference crown this season.
Path to the Championship
San Diego State will take on Creighton or Arizona State on Friday, depending on who wins and loses on Thursday night. The Aztecs are playing lock-down defense and gave Arizona their toughest competition to date. They feature a long, athletic team that is prone to causing mismatches. San Diego State held their last opponent to 22% field goal shooting and forced 23 turnovers.
Before they get there, they will take on College of Charleston in the first round. Charleston returns four starters from a team that won 24 games last season.
An opening round win would pit them against the winner of Creighton/Arizona State. Should the Aztecs prevail, they would likely take on either Marquette or Miami in the championship game on Sunday.
The high caliber of teams in this year's tournament will enhance the Aztecs strength of schedule and prepare them for Mountain West Conference games in the new year.
The Wooden Legacy tips off with Miami versus George Washington on November 28 at 11 am EST on ESPNU.