Old Spice Classic Recap

by Chris Mackinder | December 3rd, 2008

The Old Spice Classic was slated to be the monster among monster pre-conference tournaments. Thanks to Michigan State (or Maryland, depending on how you view the situation), the tournament didn’t live up to the hype.

When it was all said and done, the four “big boys” all showcased their stuff. But Michigan State’s shocking thumping at the hands of Maryland screwed everything up.

Only one ranked team–yes, you read that correctly–played more than one other ranked opponent. That was Tennessee.

This classic was suppose to showcase MSU vs. Gonzaga and Georgetown vs. Tennessee in the semifinals, with the losers facing off in a terrific third-place game while the winners battled it out for Old Spice Classic supremacy. Instead, MSU’s first-round loss to Maryland put the Spartans in the consolation bracket to feast on patsies. Gonzaga then was able to handle a Maryland team that had played out of its mind against the Spartans the day before (and definitely did not against the Zags).

We were able to watch a great Georgetown-Tennessee game, but the loser, Georgetown, was able to feast on the Terrapins in the third-place game.

As stated above, Tennessee played Georgetown and Gonzaga in the classic, getting the best schedule strength boost out of all the teams. The Vols just couldn’t close the deal, losing to Gonzaga in the title bout, 83-74.

Here is what we learned about each team and how it might affect each squad come Selection Sunday:

I was the first to roll my eyes at those “this is Gonzaga’s best team ever” statements before the season. Seriously, we’ve all heard that statement for the past five years and each year the Zags disappoint. But this team might have just the right mix to pose a serious threat to the real big boys.

Jeremy Pargo is the perfect point guard for Gonzaga. He brings experience and tremendous ball control to the offense. He won’t put up monster point totals, but a 10-point, 7-assist game like he had in the championshipare the kind of numbers that will keep the Zags rolling deep into March (and possibly April).

Twin Towers Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye lived up to the hype all tournament long. Heytvelt averaged 15 points and six boards in the three games while Daye averaged 11 points and six rebounds, including a solid 17-point, 10-board double-double in the semifinals. These Zags would most likely finish at or just below the top of nearly all “major” conferences.

Tournament Implications: The WCC won’t be as strong this season as the past few years, meaning Gonzaga must do its dirty work in the non-conference. When Selection Sunday rolls around, the Zags can always point to an Old Spice Classic championship with three other ranked teams in the field. If the Zags finish with two or fewer losses, a No. 2 seed is in the bag.

Obviously, picking the Vols to lose in the first round to Siena was a bad move. That game highlighted exactly what the Vols need to do to be a dangerous team this season. Obviously, it looks like Tennessee and Florida will battle for SEC supremacy, but the Vols are looking for a deep March run. I still don’t buy this as a great team when it’s forced to play in the half court. (This could be because I don’t see the Vols play 30 games a season like those in SEC country do). But a 35.5 percent shooting night in the championship game magnifies Tennessee’s weakness. The Vols have great athletes, but putting Tennessee in a slow-tempo game will be its kryptonite.

What Tennessee did show in wins over Siena and Georgetown was the ability to change a game in a matter of minutes. Using in-your-face defense and Bruce Pearl’s fierce trapping techniques, Tennessee can force turnovers like few teams ever have. Give this team easy baskets and it’ll get an easy win. Unfortunately for the Vols, the big runs that helped in blowing out Siena and speeding past Georgetown didn’t come against Gonzaga.

Tournament Implications: Rankings obviously don’t matter, but it says something when the Vols moved up in the rankings despite losing a game this week. Winning the SEC will get Tennessee some points with the selection committee, and the loss to the Zags, assuming Gonzaga finishes with the estimated 30 wins, won’t be a bad loss. Oh, Tennessee gets a rematch at home in early January. I still see Tennessee in the 2-5 seed range.

We don’t need Dennis Green to tell us that the Hoyas “are who we thought they were.” The Hoyas will win games in which they can control the tempo. Against Tennessee, Georgetown shot a solid 53.1 percent from the field, but turned the ball over 20 times. Assuming a quarter of those turnovers led to transition baskets means Tennessee was handed 10 points.

If you look at Georgetown’s points-against this season, you’ll see the following numbers: 62-53-50-90-48. Take a guess at which game Georgetown lost. The point is the Hoyas can win a lot of games this season, but this team is built to play a slug-it-out half-court game. Against high-paced teams, Georgetown will have to control the tempo; otherwise, even with a 50-percent shooting night, a loss is likely on the way.

Greg Monroe continues to improve, although Georgetown likely desires more than 5.6 rebounds per game. The 14.4 ppg, however, is a great counter argument to the poor rebounding. I’m continually impressed with sophomore sensation Chris Wright. He averaged 10 ppg and 4 apg during the tournament and will continue to improve. Austin Freeman was a monster during the three-game classic, averaging 16 ppg and proving he is Georgetown’s No. 1 option outside of the post.

Tournament Implications: The Hoyas will benefit from a Big East schedule all season and likely will get at least a few wins against the six other Big East teams in the polls (Georgetown has seven games against those schools as well as non-conference games with Memphis and Duke). Defense can carry the Hoyas to a Big East title. This team looks like a No. 3-6 seed, but dangerous whatever the number ends up being.

Michigan State
Disappointing is the only way to describe MSU’s showing in the Old Spice Classic. Spartan fans will use the following excuses for MSU’s first-round spanking by Maryland: “We were without our best big man (Goran Suton) and Raymar Morgan was reduced to minimal minutes by the refs.” Those statements are true, but the fact that MSU, a team with Final Four aspirations, couldn’t play up to an average Maryland team is disturbing.

One of MSU’s strengths under Tom Izzo has been free-throw shooting. Against Maryalnd, MSU went 12-for-27 (44.4 percent); Against Oklahoma State, the Spartans went 19-for-26 (73.1 percent). Against Wichita State, MSU shot 18-for-31 (58.1 percent). That caused Izzo to say the team would shoot “700 million” free throws before leaving Disney World.

Raymar Morgan rebounded from his four-point effort in limited minutes against Maryland to drop a season-high 29 points on Oklahoma State. Kalin Lucas continues to impress MSU fans. And while his point totals aren’t flourishing, his 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio makes him one of the best young point guards in the country.

Tournament Implications: The Spartans didn’t leave the Old Spice Classic with a signature win. Oklahoma State and Wichita State, unless something changes, won’t help MSU’s seed on Selection Sunday. It is clear the Big Ten’s weakness will likely keep the Big Ten Champion from a No. 1 seed, but a No. 2 or No. 3 seed for the champ is likely. MSU will have to rack up big wins this season in the non-conference (shocking North Carolina would be more than huge) and finish in the top two of the Big Ten to get a protected seed. This looks like a No. 3 to No. 6 seed as we speak.

The Terps didn’t win the tournament like coach Gary Williams told them to before their first game, but Maryland made a big statement in an opening win against Michigan State. The taste of that savory win didn’t last long, however, as Gonzaga whipped Maryland 81-59 in the next game. In the third-place game, Maryland fell to Georgetown and trailed by as many as 38 points before losing 75-48.

The Terrapins proved they can play with really good teams, but inconsistencies will doom this club. Greivis Vasquez will continue to be a stud, utilizing his 6-foot-6 body at the point guard position to find every mismatch possible.

Tournament Implications: Maryland didn’t lose any credibility in the classic and was the only team to play three ranked foes. The 1-2 record doesn’t look pretty, but Maryland played the best of the best and could be ready to battle UNC, Duke and Wake Forest in conference play. This was a borderline tournament team coming in and it still looks that way. The Terps got a signature win on a neutral floor against a Michigan State team that is still regarded as one of the Top 10 teams in the country. On Selection Sunday, that will be huge. I see Maryland sliding in as a No. 9 to No. 11 seed.

Oklahoma State
The Cowboys went 1-2 in the tournament, losing to Gonzaga and Michigan State–two not-so-bad losses–before beating Siena in the seventh-place game. Travis Ford will continue to build Oklahoma State into a winner but the Cowboys don’t have the horses right now.

Tournament Implications: Unless Oklahoma State can somehow finish fourth in the Big 12 (there is no way this team passes Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas), the Cowboys will have a decent shot at a NCAA bid. Getting a win or two against those schools would be suggested as well. At the current time, this is not a tournament team.

Wichita State
The Shockers played Georgetown mighty tough in the opening-round game. Think how different this article would be if Wichita State had sunk the three-pointer to take the lead late in that game. Instead, the Shockers got a win against Siena out of the tournament and played Michigan State close for most of the game.

Tournament Implications: Like Oklahoma State, Wichita State’s only win came against Siena. While Siena has a good chance of winning the MAAC and could be a sleeper in the Big Dance again because of five returning starters, the win doesn’t add up to much right now. Wichita State will have to notch some big valley wins from here on out to make the tournament. The NIT should be the 2008-09 goal.

The Saints came into the tournament as the most predictable team in terms of what to expect. This is a team that returns five starters from a squad that won a tournament game last March. Instead, Siena folded when Tennessee turned up the defensive pressure. After that, Siena didn’t put much of a scare into Wichita State or Oklahoma State.

Tournament Implications: This tournament was more of an outlet for Siena to get more TV time. The Saints did nothing, however, to show it is much more than the best team in a small conference. Winning the MAAC was likely the only way Siena was going to make the tournament anyway. Without any win–let alone a signature win–from the Old Spice Classic to put on their resume solidifies that belief. Siena will make the field of 65 only if it wins the MAAC.

2008 Old Spice Classic Results

Championship Game: Gonzaga 83, Tennessee 74

Third-place game
: Georgetown 75, Maryland 48
Fifth-place game: Michigan State 65, Wichita State 57
Seventh-place game: Oklahoma State 77, Siena 68

Second round
Gonzaga 81, Maryland 59
Tennessee 90, Georgetown 78
Michigan State 94, Oklahoma State 79
Wichita State 72, Siena 70

Opening round
Maryland 80, Michigan State 62
Gonzaga 83, Oklahoma State 71
Tennessee 78, Siena 64
Georgetown 58, Wichita State 50

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