Puerto Rico Tip-Off Preview

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The pre-season college basketball tournament season is upon us and The Sports Bank is your home for in-depth previews to get your Feast Week watching ready.  The Puerto Rico Tip-Off begins Thursday and features an eight-team field including North Carolina, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, and Minnesota.  Here are my predictions and what to look for during the four day tourney.

By: David Kay

QUARTERFINALS (Thursday):
West Virginia vs. Davidson, 11:30 pm, ESPNU

What to Watch:
Since Stephen Curry left Davidson, they have gone back to being another run of the mill mid-major.  The Mountaineers are not as talented as they were last year when they made a run to the Final Four but should have no problem advancing to the semi’s.

Prediction: West Virginia 70, Davidson 53

Vanderbilt vs. Nebraska, 1:30 pm, ESPNU

What to Watch:
I am not that high on Vandy this season so my predicted score should tell you exactly what I think of Nebraska.  Commodores new starting point guard Brad Tinsley posted the first triple-double in school history this past weekend versus Presbyterian with 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Prediction:
Vanderbilt 81, Nebraska 62

North Carolina vs. Hofstra, 5:00 pm, ESPNU

What to Watch:

This should be over by the first TV timeout and most people’s first chance of checking out the projected number one pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Harrison Barnes.  Also keep an eye on UNC sophomore John Henson who posted an impressive stat line of 10 points, 17 boards, and 7 blocks in the Heels’ opener.

Prediction:
North Carolina 88, Hofstra 56

Tubby Smith MinnesotaMinnesota vs. Western Kentucky, 7:30 pm, ESPNU

What to Watch:
I am just not that buying the Gophers quite yet this season especially with guard Devoe Joseph indefinitely suspended for violating team rules.  WKU is a feisty mid-major that has had success in years past against major conference opponents.  The Hilltoppers have a small frontcourt that will have to contest with Minnesota’s height inside, but they are capable of pulling off the upset.  The loser of this game cruises to the fifth place finish.

Prediction:
Western Kentucky 65, Minnesota 63

SEMIFINALS (Friday):
West Virginia vs. Vanderbilt, 12:30 pm, ESPNU

What to Watch:
An intriguing match-up could pit future NBA prospects Kevin Jones of West Virginia and Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor squaring off head-to-head.  Taylor scored a career-high 27 points in the Commodores’ season opener.  This game could come down to the defensive end where the Mountaineers hard-nosed style under Bob Huggins gives WVU the edge.

Prediction:
West Virginia 63, Vanderbilt 59

North Carolina vs. Western Kentucky, 8:30 pm, ESPNU

What to Watch:
UNC will want to run, run, and run some more.  The Hilltoppers’ only hope will be making this a half-court game by playing strong transition defense and limiting the Heels fast break opportunities.  In the end, I think Carolina has too much athleticism for WKU to contend with.

Prediction:
North Carolina 81, Western Kentucky 67

THIRD PLACE GAME (Sunday):
Vanderbilt vs. Western Kentucky, 5:30 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
Vandy has a lot of depth in their frontcourt while WKU starts 6-6 and 6-5 up-front and only plays one guy taller than 6-6.  The difference between the Hilltoppers beating a bigger Minnesota team is that the Commodores’ guard play and wings will cause more problems than the Gophers did; especially if Brad Tinsley or John Jenkins get the hot hand from downtown.

Prediction:
Vanderbilt 70, Western Kentucky 66

John Henson UNCCHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Sunday):
North Carolina vs. West Virginia, 7:30 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
Carolina is still a young team only having one senior on their roster in Alabama transfer Justin Knox.  The Mountaineers are replacing three starters from last year but still have more experience for this big early season battle.  The match-up to watch will be John Henson D’ing up Big East Player of the Year candidate Kevin Jones.  Henson has the length to disrupt Jones mid-range game but Jones is much physical than Henson on the block.  Look for WVU to try and control the tempo but the Heels just have more talent.

Prediction:
North Carolina 67, West Virginia 62

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  1. Nice!

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