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November 22, 2011

Breaking down the Thanksgiving tournaments

Four Thanksgiving weekend tournaments offer some respite from all of this weekend's football, though - truth be told - the fields for two of the events aren't exactly overwhelming.

Here's a look at the four tournaments.


Site: Nassau, Bahamas
Teams: College of Charleston, Connecticut, Florida State, Harvard, Massachusetts, UNC Asheville, UCF, Utah
The buzz: Harvard garnered plenty of preseason hype, and this event gives the Crimson a chance to boost its NCAA tournament at-large credentials in case they don't earn the Ivy League's automatic bid. Harvard returns all five starters from a team that went 23-7 last season. Harvard could get a shot at 2011 regional semifinalist Florida State in the second round. A potential championship game between defending national champion Connecticut and FSU could feature plenty of defense. FSU led the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.363) and Connecticut ranked 11th in that category (.393) last season. Florida State's first three opponents this season have shot 36.8 percent, while Connecticut's first two foes have shot 33.6 percent. UNC Asheville has a good backcourt and was the preseason pick to win the Big South.
First-round pairings: UCF-College of Charleston, Florida State-UMass, Connecticut-UNC Asheville and Harvard-Utah.
Projected winner: Connecticut


Site: Anchorage, Alaska
Teams: Alaska-Anchorage, Central Michigan, Dartmouth, Murray State, New Mexico State, San Francisco, Southern Miss, UC Irvine
The buzz: This tourney used to be a big deal; alas, that's not the case any more. This is a rather motley group of teams. New Mexico State already owns a win over New Mexico, and the frontcourt-oriented Aggies look to be one of the best teams in the WAC - but the WAC is down this season. San Francisco has a chance to be a fringe contender in the West Coast Conference. The Dons have a solid backcourt. Murray State is one of the best low-major programs in the nation, but this is expected to be a rebuilding season for the Racers. The bracket sets up for a New Mexico State-USF final.
First-round pairings: Alaska-Anchorage vs. Murray State, Dartmouth vs. San Francisco, Central Michigan vs. New Mexico State and UC Irvine vs. Southern Miss.
Projected winner: New Mexico State


Thursday-Friday, Sunday
Site: Orlando
Teams: Arizona State, Dayton, DePaul, Fairfield, Indiana State, Minnesota, Texas Tech, Wake Forest
The buzz: This is another field that is less-than-inspiring. Of the five power-conference teams in the field, Arizona State, Texas Tech and Wake are expected to finish at or near the bottom of their leagues, De Paul is expected to finish in the bottom half of the Big East and Minnesota is considered a middle-of-the-pack team in the Big Ten. Fairfield is the mid-major to watch in this grouping. The Stags are a top contender for the Metro Atlantic title, and junior Derek Needham heads a deep and talented backcourt. Indiana State won the Missouri Valley tourney last season and should vie for a top-four league finish this season. Dayton is rebuilding under new coach Archie Miller, Sean's brother. While the field isn't that good, there are a lot of evenly matched teams.
First-round pairings: Indiana State vs. Texas Tech, DePaul vs. Minnesota, Dayton vs. Wake Forest and Arizona State vs. Fairfield.
Projected winner: Minnesota


Thursday-Friday, Sunday
Site: Anaheim, Calif.
Teams: Boston College, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Saint Louis, Santa Clara, UC Riverside, Villanova, Washington State
The buzz: The most intriguing game could be a second-round matchup between Villanova and Saint Louis. The Billikens look as if they could be worthy challengers to Xavier and Temple in the Atlantic 10 after defeating Washington 77-64 on Sunday behind 25 points from Brian Conklin. Villanova still is trying to find its identity; the Wildcats struggled to put away Delaware and needed overtime to defeat La Salle. New Mexico may be the favorite in the Mountain West, but the Lobos are trying to recover from a 62-53 loss to New Mexico State. First-round opponent Santa Clara could be tricky. The Broncos have experience, and they're led by underrated G Kevin Foster, who averaged 20.2 points last season. Rounding out the field are three major-conference teams who are expected to finish near the bottom in their respective league races - Boston College, Oklahoma and Washington State.
First-round pairings: Boston College vs. Saint Louis, Villanova vs. UC Riverside, New Mexico vs. Santa Clara and Oklahoma vs. Washington State.
Projected winner: New Mexico

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