2011 Puerto Rico Tip-Off Preview and Predictions

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It’s not even Feast Week and the pre-season tournament is upon us.  The 2011 Puerto Rico Tip-Off begins today and has somewhat of a watered down field since teams like Purdue, Maryland, and Colorado are going through a transition period.  Here are my predictions and what to look for during the four day tourney.  Click on the school’s name for an in-depth season preview.

QUARTERFINALS (Thursday):
Temple vs. Western Michigan, 9:30 am, ESPNU

What to Watch:
The Owls survived an overtime victory against Penn in their opener and rely heavily on their experienced backcourt of Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore.  Broncos lost Juwan Howard Jr. to transfer before the season but have a talented big man inside in Matt Stainbrook who scored 32 points in Western Michigan’s first game; a six-point loss to South Dakota State.  The Owls are a very efficient defensive team so Broncos will have to shoot much better from three than the 2-15 performance they put together against South Dakota State if they hope to pull off the upset.

Prediction: Temple 65, Western Michigan 57

Purdue vs. Iona, 12:00 pm, ESPNU

What to Watch:
The Boilermarkers absolutely crushed Northern Illinois then narrowly escaped a two-point win against High Point.  Robbie Hummel looks healthy and Matt Painter has gone deep on his bench early on as he is still trying to figure out how to replace the production of JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore.  Iona is certainly no slouch as they return their top four scorers from a team that won 25 games last season.  They also have a key addition in Arizona transfer MoMo Jones.  Purdue should certainly be on upset alert in this one.

Prediction: Purdue 72, Iona 70

Alabama vs. Maryland, 4:00 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
Anthony Grant has done a terrific job in his brief time at Alabama as the Tide are expected to make some serious noise this season.  They rely heavily on their trio of JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell, and Trevor Releford, but also have a pair of talented freshmen in Trevor Lacey and Levi Randolph.  The Terps are short-handed due to the suspension of Alex Len and injury to Pe’Shon Howard.  They will have a difficult time handling the suffocating defense of ‘Bama

Prediction: Alabama 67, Maryland 49

Wichita State vs. Colorado, 6:30 pm, ESPNU

What to Watch:
The Shockers like to use a deep bench to wear down their opponents and will try to do so against a Buffalo team that lost their top two players, Alec Burks and Cory Higgins.  Colorado sophomore Andre Roberson is a potential breakout candidate and had 13 points, 15 rebounds in the Buffs opener.

Prediction: Wichita State 83, Colorado 75

SEMIFINALS (Friday):
Temple vs. Purdue, 12:00 pm, ESPNU

What to Watch:
For some reason I have this gut instinct that the Boilermakers either lose to Iona in the quarterfinals or win the whole tourney.  This should be a grind it out sort of game as both teams play hard on the defensive end.  Whoever has the hot hand from three wins this game.

Prediction: Purdue 59, Temple 55

Alabama vs. Wichita State, 8:00 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
A re-match of last year’s NIT Championship!  The Shockers beat the Tide last year in a game where Green was in foul trouble so the Tide didn’t have their best player at their full disposal.  Bama doesn’t have the depth that Whichta State does, but if Green stays out of foul trouble, they should move on to the title game.

Prediction: Alabama 72, Wichita State 68

THIRD PLACE GAME (Sunday):
Temple vs. Wichita State, 4:30 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
Nobody want to finish fourth in any pre-season tournament because it ultimately means you have lost two of your three games.  The Shockers have the edge depth wise but I think Fernandez and Moore will the Owls to a third place finish.

Prediction: Temple 61, Wichita State 60

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Sunday):
Alabama vs. Purdue, 7:00 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
How will the Tide handle playing their third game in four days with a fairly short bench?  A Tony Mitchell-Robbie Hummel match-up intrigues me as Mitchell’s athleticism and physicality could cause problems for Hummel.  But like I said, my gut reaction is Purdue gets bounced in the first game or wins it all.  So…

Prediction:
Purdue 78, Alabama 73 in OT

TOURNAMENT MVP: Robbie Hummel

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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