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November 26, 2008

Old Spice Classic features impressive group

ORLANDO The Old Spice Classic doesn't need any Old Spice products to spruce it up.

There's nothing malodorous here, just an incredible eight-team field that includes seven teams that were ranked in our Preseason Top 65 Countdown. Five of them were in the NCAA tournament last year, and four of them will enter the event ranked in The Associated Press Top 25.

It's Madness in November. The winner will come away brimming with confidence and knowing it's capable of ending up in Detroit for the Final Four.

Here's a preview of the Old Spice Classic, which begins Thanksgiving Day and includes games on Friday and the final on Sunday night.

The first-round matchups are, in order: Tennessee-Siena, Georgetown-Wichita State, Maryland-Michigan State and Oklahoma State-Gonzaga.

Teams are listed below in the predicted order of finish:

1. Michigan State (2-0)
AP rank: 5
Key players: F Raymar Morgan (21.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg), G Kalin Lucas (15.0 ppg, 6.0 apg)
Skinny so far: Coach Tom Izzo has assembled a ridiculously deep roster. Through two games nine players are averaging at least 12 minutes per game, and that doesn't figure to change as the season progresses. Five-star freshman forward Delvon Roe and sophomore shooting guard Durrell Summers are two to watch off the bench.
Why they'll win: They rebound and defend better than any team in the field. And it doesn't hurt to have a second five that could finish fifth or sixth here.
Why they won't: If Tennessee's helter-skelter pace takes them out of their game in the final.

2. Tennessee (3-0)
AP rank: 12
Key players: F Tyler Smith (19.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.0 apg), F Wayne Chism (11.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg)
Skinny so far: Point guard was the biggest question for the Vols entering this season, but junior-college transfer Bobby Maze has been better than advertised through three games. The guy has 19 assists and three turnovers, and coach Bruce Pearl can't complain about that kind of decision-making.
Why they'll win: They make teams run with them, and few can. They're averaging 93.7 points per game and have multiple players who can get their own shots.
Why they won't: Michigan State gets too many second-chance opportunities and limits its turnovers.

3. Gonzaga (2-0)
AP rank: 9
Key players: G Jeremy Pargo (6.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 9.0 apg), F Austin Daye (15.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg)
Skinny so far: Daye, a former five-star prospect, looks ready to blossom as a sophomore. He's long and lean and can shoot and defend. Pargo wisely pulled out of the NBA draft and has been content to distribute to this point, with 18 assists and just three turnovers.
Why they'll win: The Bulldogs are as deep and talented as any squad coach Mark Few has had. Their semifinal matchup with Michigan State could be one of the games of the year.
Why they won't: The Spartans guards make life miserable for Pargo and their frontcourt holds its own against Gonzaga's bigs.

4. Georgetown (2-0)
AP rank: 21
Key players: C Greg Monroe (17.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg), F DaJuan Summers (11.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg), G Chris Wright (13.5 ppg, 5.5 apg, 5.0 rpg)
Skinny so far: Monroe, a five-star freshman, already has shown what a perfect fit he is for coach John Thompson III's offensive system. Consider his line from the Hoyas' rout of Drexel: 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting, 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals, three blocks and one turnover in 31 minutes. Wright, a sophomore, also has stepped up his game.
Why they'll win: The precision and patience of Thompson's offense coupled with the Hoyas' size could frustrate Tennessee in the semis and set up a great matchup with Michigan State.
Why they won't: Lack of depth. The starters already are averaging at least 26.5 minutes per game, and that's before the level of competition made the jump it will make this weekend.

5. Siena (2-0)
AP rank: Also receiving votes
Key players: G Kenny Hasbrouck (21.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.0 apg), F Alex Franklin (11.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg), G Edwin Ubiles (10.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Skinny so far: The Saints have had no trouble with their first two opponents. They've hit 15 3-pointers but have been spotty at the free-throw line (65.9 percent), especially for a guard-oriented team.
Why they'll win: Yes, believe it or not, the Saints can win the whole thing. They're a veteran team with excellent guard play that makes good decisions and can get streaky from 3-point range.
Why they won't: Their first-round game against Tennessee should be quite the up-tempo affair, but it could wear out Siena. The Saints also have a distinctive size disadvantage.

6. Oklahoma State (4-0)
AP rank: Also receiving votes
Key players: G James Anderson (19.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg), G Terrel Harris (18.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.0 apg), G Byron Eaton (17.5 ppg, 5.0 apg)
Skinny so far: Coach Travis Ford has brought his frenetic offensive style to the Cowboys, turning Stillwater into whitewater. The Pokes are averaging 89.5 points and 9.5 3-pointers per game.
Why they'll win: A first-round upset of Gonzaga isn't out of the question, and if they could speed up the Spartans the Cowboys would have a chance in that one, too. Oklahoma State and Tennessee could play a final in which both teams reached three digits.
Why they won't: The Gonzaga bigs get too many easy baskets while Oklahoma State is settling for long-range jumpers.

7. Maryland (3-0)
AP rank: None
Key players: G Greivis Vasquez (22.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 5.0 apg)
Skinny so far: The Terrapins narrowly avoided coming into the Old Spice with a loss after rallying from five points down in the final two minutes to force overtime and eventually subdue visiting Vermont. It doesn't bode well for coach Gary Williams, whose team provided him with his 400th victory at Maryland when it beat the Catamounts.
Why they'll win: They won't.
Why they won't: Because the Terps play tourney favorite Michigan State in the first round and wouldn't get the check mark in any edge except for Vasquez.

8. Wichita State (2-1)
AP rank: None
Key players: C Garrett Stutz (13.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg), F Ramon Clemente (8.0 ppg, 11.7 rpg)
Skinny so far: The Shockers are the only team in the Old Spice field with a loss, and it came at home against Missouri-Kansas City. That doesn't bode well.
Why they'll win: They won't.
Why they won't: Inexperience, no go-to guy and a matchup that's too tough in the first round.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

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