I know that the tradition isn't supposed to be hoops on Thanksgiving. It's supposed to be football. But yesterday, I was much more compelled to watch the basketball action.
Basically, there were only 10 games - nine of which were on television, and there was really only one super compelling matchup. But the football yesterday was worthless and the hoops especially the four games from Orlando was entertaining.
Still, the best game of the game came last night in Alaska. Western Kentucky and Gonzaga dueled in a classic mid-major matchup. Although is still amazes me that Gonzaga has sort of shed that label and is viewed as a true top notch squad. I don't have the Zags in my Top 25 at the moment, but they entered the Shootout in 14th or their abouts in the national polls.
You knew the Hilltoppers weren't going to go easily. An entertaining first half ended with Gonzaga fortunate to be ahead. The second half started with a huge WKU run and the game was officially a problem for the Bulldogs. But give Gonzaga credit, they rallied and executed better down the stretch. They move on to face Texas Tech.
I watched a good portion of three of the four games from Walt Disney World. With a young daughter, we have made several trips to the World recently and I think that tying it into this basketball tournament seems to make perfect sense. If my Orange or the Mount played in this thing, I don't think I could resist.
Anyhow, South Carolina took care of Penn State in the opener. The Gamecocks built an early lead and won by 7. I didn't see the second half as we had to do that turkey dinner thing. Again, the Lions are fairly decent. And I could see them winning as many as they lose in the Big Ten. There is some young talent around. South Carolina always seems to be a team that gets close come tournament time, but never is a serious threat to see its name. They need at least one more win this weekend to help the resume.
Rider and NC State may have been the most entertaining game of the day. The Broncs let a mid-size lead dwindle to two or three in the last few minutes of the half, and ultimately, in my opinion that cost them the basketball game. I'm interested to see how NC State responds today against South Carolina. The Pack was sluggish early but they played a good final 25 minutes or so to earn the win.
I was incredibly impressed with Rider's Jason Thompson. 6-11 folks who can play the way he plays are fairly rare. But when you find them at places like Lawrenceville NJ, its even more uncommon. He really is good, and does so many things well for a player of his size. Its obvious why he averaged a double-double in the MAAC, and hard to imagine him not averaging the same anywhere.
Central Florida got behind early and didn't have enough to catch Villanova. But the Knights tried and tried and tried. The Cats are a team, who I've bumped in and out of my Top 25 this early season, and they showed some inconsistincies last night. But they got the victory and they'll be strong in the Big East, and they might just win this tournament.
George Mason had never started 4-0 before last night. In fact, I don't think the Patriots have ever been 3-0, but they easily got to 4-0 over Kansas State. Michael Beasley is clearly the real deal. But Mason, as VCU did in Puerto Rico, has shown that the CAA is the real deal. The Mason/Nova matchup should be a good one today.
I didn't really see a lot of the Anaheim Classic. I did see USC late night for a bit and its obvious that the young Trojans are going to get better as the year goes on. They got a solid win against San Diego last night. I think that the Southern Illinois-Mississippi State matchup is very intriguing today.
The other thing that is intriguing is a trip to Orlando for next year's tournament. It looks like a great field. Gonzaga, Tennessee, Memphis, Michigan State, Siena, Maryland, Oklahoma State and Wichita State. That actually gives it the star power that it sort of lacked in each of its first two years. I'm keeping it as a possibility.
There is so much more good hoops today. I'm interested in the early start from the World, if just for another look at Thompson. And because it is hoops at 10:30. I may have to watch some football this afternoon as well, but I do plan on trying to see Mississippi State and Southern Illinois. Plus my Orange is back on the floor. And since some of the folks from Washington have brought up the football massacre that the Huskies laid on, I'm seeking revenge. The Legends Classic starts at the Rock, and the NIT Championship features Ohio State and AtM. I have both of those teams ranked. The Aggies at 11, and Ohio State at 17.
It will be a good day. Plus I will get some live action in, as the Gettysburg Warriors take on Daniel Boone in a District III semifinal across the street.