NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: The Mississippi State Bulldogs celebrate after defeating the Arizona Wildcats during the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches Vs Cancer at Madison Square Garden on November 18, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Last night at Madison Square Garden, Mississippi State took the first early season tournament crown of the season by topping Arizona in the 2K Sports Classic final, 67-57. UTEP transfer (and birthday boy) Arnett Moultrie led the way for the Bulldogs with 19 points and 10 rebounds, which helped him earn tournament MVP honors. His addition could be what a Bulldog team that's been a disappointment over the past few seasons needs to break through nationally.
Texas A&M claimed third place by defeating the St. John's, 58-57, even though the Red Storm went to the foul line astonishingly far more frequently than the Aggies (22-38, compared to 2-3 for A&M). So, much of the credit for the win has to go to Anna Cate Kennedy, daughter of Aggies' coach Billy, who did a fantastic job of throwing the Johnnies' foul shooters off their game (H/T Matt Norlander). Elston Turner got the winning jumper for A&M, while Nurideen Lindsey missed two free throws that could have won (or tied) it at the end.
ESPN's two events take Saturday off after semifinal Friday. In Charleston, the Northwestern used defense (yes, you read that right) to slip past Tulsa and reach Sunday's final, where they'll meet Seton Hall. The Pirates' second half was enough to make up for St. Joseph's strong first period (and Carl Jones' tournament-record 38 points, set a day after John Shurna scored 37 for Northwestern), which resulted in a 78-70 Seton Hall win. In the consolation bracket, LSU handled Western Kentucky, while Georgia Tech pulled away from National Semifinalist VCU in the nightcap..That sets up a duplicate game in the 7th/8th place contest. VCU is slated to play at Western Kentucky on Wednesday night.
Down in Puerto Rico, Ramone Moore scored 27 for Temple, but Purdue got 26 from Lewis Jackson and 20 from Robbie Hummel, as the Boilermakers advanced to Sunday's championship game, where they'll meet Alabama. The Crimson Tide avenged its 2011 NIT Final loss to Wichita State by a 70-60 score. Iona will play Maryland for fifth place. The Gaels handled Western Michigan in another high-octane shootout, 94-88, while the Terrell Stoglin's 32 points helped push the Terrapins past Colorado, 78-71.
Today, two tournaments resume at the semifinal stage, while four teams will contest the consolation semifinals in the Virgin Islands. More on those games after the jump.
Hall of Fame Tip-Off Semifinals
Kentucky Wildcats (2-0) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (3-0), 12 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
The result of this one has no impact to the timing of tomorrow's schedule, as the Wildcats will play the noon game (on actual TV) and the Nittany Lions will be relegated to the 2:30 ESPN3 game, but expect the Wildcats, who defeated Marist by 50 and Kansas by 10, to be playing for the trophy. And yes, I'm aware Penn State handled Hartford, Radford, and Long Island at home. The young Wildcats are simply far superior to either of those teams.
USF Bulls (3-0, 2-0 vs. Division I) vs. Old Dominion Monarchs (2-1), approx. 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
The winner of this one will face the winner of game one for the title, though the time will vary based on the opponent. USF struggled with both of its campus opponents, topping Vermont by just two before struggling mightily with a Marist team Kentucky blew out of the arena. Meanwhile, the Monarchs, who nearly prevented Butler from making another NCAA run in 2011, were outclassed by Northern Iowa a week ago before topping a very competitive Long Island team by eight on Monday night, then managing just 53 against Howard two nights later. Still, expect the Monarchs to advance, unless USF suddenly buckles down far more on defense than usual.
In the non-televised evening games, Radford will play Long Island, while Vermont faces Marist.
Final prediction: Kentucky vs. Old Dominion
Legends Classic Semifinals
This event returns to the New York City area after a short stay in Atlantic City. Both teams hosted a pair of regional round games before making the trip up to the Meadowlands.
Vanderbilt Commodores (2-1) vs. N.C. State Wolfpack (3-0), 6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
If the Commodores team that handled Oregon and Bucknell shows up, the Wolfpack won't have much of a chance this evening. However, if the defense-less version of Vanderbilt shows up, Mark Gottfried's team could do what Cleveland State did to the 'Dores. N.C. State certainly has shown its offensive potential in wins over UNC Asheville and Morehead State, but they got a scare from Princeton on Wednesday night.
Oregon State (3-0, 2-0 vs. Division I) vs. Texas (2-0), approx. 9 p.m. ET (ESPN3/Longhorn Network)
Texas is a heavy favorite in this game after grabbing an easy win over Boston U. and a more difficult one against Rhode Island. Meanwhile, the underdog Beavers, opened their season with easy wins over Cal St.-Bakersfield and Division II West Alabama before picking up a 10-point victory over Hofstra on Wednesday night.
Final prediction: Vanderbilt vs. Texas
Paradise Jam Consolation
Like yesterday, both of these games will stream (for a fee) at ParadiseJam.com.
Drexel Dragons vs. Virginia Cavaliers, 3:30 p.m. ET
I honestly wasn't expecting the Dragons to be here, but they didn't shoot well in their Friday loss to Norfolk State, who also got to the line a few more times than Bruiser Flint's squad (though neither team should be proud of its free throw percentage on the afternoon). Drexel will take on another surprise Friday loser, Virginia, whose comeback attempt fell short, as TCU advanced to Sunday's semifinals with a 57-55 win.
Drake Bulldogs vs. Winthrop Eagles, approx. 6 p.m. ET
The Bulldogs led most of the way against Mississippi, but ran out of gas at the end, falling 63-59, while the Eagles were involved in the only blowout of the day (and the only result I picked correctly), a 95-73 beating at the hands of Marquette.
As always, please feel free to discuss today's action in the comments.