On Thursday, ESPNews aired a half-hour special to announce many of the early season tournament brackets. You could consider it a mini-Selection Sunday, except for the fact the event took place during the early afternoon/late morning hours of a weekday...and the fact that no bubbles were burst.
Thursday was a nice reminder of what's to come, especially as we're in the midst of the silliest of silly seasons in recent memory. Three long months still remain until the second best time of the year tips off (intriguing matchups at neutral sites will always be high on my list), but the season IS moving ever so closer.
Before I get more into early season event talk, I have a few housekeeping matters to address.
On the SBNation front, we have a new college blog and a new name for an old favorite, so it's time to update your bookmarks.
First, head over to Cowboys Ride For Free, our new Oklahoma State blog, and give Samuel and his cohorts a hearty welcome. The SBN roster for the Big 12 (soon to be minus two) is almost complete now, as only Baylor is missing.
Secondly, our Seton Hall blog has a new name (but the same management). Gonzo Ball is dead. Long live South Orange Juice! I must say I love the simplicity of the new logo, even though it looks like Otto meeting a cruel end.
As for this site, I have a new Twitter address. You can still follow me @ChrisDobbertean for my general tweets, but @CDobb_BtB_SBN is the new home of Blogging The Bracket on Twitter. With football season around the corner, expect a third account focused on that sport in the coming weeks.
In terms of the actual blog, expect things to be quiet for the next few weeks. Thanks to seemingly everyone else at my day job going through significant life changes at the same time, my team of technical editors, which stood at four on July 22, will be down to just one (yours truly) effective next Thursday, for at least a few weeks.
Since this change coincides with what's typically a busy time of year at the office, and it takes quite awhile to get new folks hired and working, my posting will be even more sporadic than it normally is during the offseason. Remember last year's epic season preview series? A reprise is not likely to happen this season.
That's enough angst for one post. After the jump, I'll have some thoughts on Bracket Thursday and a whole slew of schedule links for the upcoming season.
Up first, a look at the traditional eight-team elimination events. I've ordered these capsules based on how attractive I think the brackets look. Your mileage may vary. Note that the Charleston Classic isn't listed here, as that field is still two teams short.
When you look at the Maui Invitational bracket, it's likely that one final matchup pops out at you, Michigan State vs. Kentucky. Before you get too excited, both teams will face significant hurdles before that dream matchup can take place. Sparty looks a bit more likely finalist, thanks to an opening round game with host Chaminade and a semifinal against either Wichita State or still rebuilding UConn. On the other side, the Wildcats, who if you recall, will have a whole slew of new faces on the roster, should have no trouble with Oklahoma, but a potential semifinal with Washington may be a bit more problematic.
ESPN's two Disney Park tourneys didn't really hit their stride until their third seasons, but their Hawai'i event, the Diamond Head Classic, features a solid field in only its second year. Chalk that up to the presence of National Runner-Up Butler and South Region Runner-Up Baylor, who could meet in the final on Christmas Day. The Bulldogs' face the slightly more challenging path, as they open with Utah, a team looking to rebound from a tough campaign, before facing either Florida State or the hosts. Scott Drew's Bears should have no trouble with San Diego, but either Mississippi State or Washington State, two other teams looking for redemption, would be a tough semifinal out.
The Old Spice Classic resembles last season's First/Second Round pods in Jacksonville, as three teams who played at Veterans Memorial Arena will return to the Sunshine State, as will one coach, who happens to be leading a new team. Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers and Fran Dunphy's Temple Owls look to be the favorites, but Steve Donahue, whose Cornell Big Red knocked both teams out of NCAAs last year, stands in the way, as his new charges, Boston College, are also in the field.
The Eagles will have to get by Mark Turgeon's Texas A&M Aggies to get a crack at the Badgers (who will have to beat Manhattan themselves), while Temple faces a stacked lower half (Georgia, Notre Dame, and Cal) themselves. The Walt Disney World event looks to be a wide open one, even if some of the games may be a bit slower paced.
The Puerto Rico Tip-Off is bracketed with a West Virginia-North Carolina final in mind. For the Mountaineers, their biggest challenges are a Davidson team looking to get back on the national scene and a Vanderbilt team which lost A.J. Ogilvy and Jermaine Beal, but returns John Jenkins, who's ready for a bigger role. As for the Tar Heels, a bracket featuring Hofstra, Minnesota, and Western Kentucky shouldn't cause much concern, as long as they can get stops.
The 76 Classic in Anaheim isn't quite as loaded as last season's edition, but it will have an impact on the bubble, thanks to the presence of perennial bubble boys Virginia Tech and OVC favorite Murray State, who could get some early national pub with a nice run. A Hokies-UNLV final seems likely, but Tech will likely have to get past Oklahoma State in the semis, while the Rebels' half is full of challenges. UNLV opens with Tulsa, facing either the Racers or Stanford on Friday.
The Paradise Jam is an event that lacks for TV coverage, mostly because it's aired by Fox College Sports, but it doesn't lack for names, even if many of them are in transition at the moment. This bracket aims for a Clemson-Xavier final, but watch out for Old Dominion in the Tigers' half of the bracket and the Alabama-Seton Hall winner in the Musketeers' section
The inaugural Cancun Governors' Cup lacks the pizazz of the other ESPN-run events, as East Tennessee State, a 16 seed, is the only NCAA team in the field. (This means the TV coverage will suffer, particularly on day 1.) The top half is wide open, as St. Louis is a slight favorite over the Bucs, Matt Janning-less Northeastern, and Southern Miss, while Ole Miss looks to be the bottom half (and overall) pick.
Also on Thursday, the Gazelle Group announced the semifinal matchups for its three events, two of which are aired on ESPN.
Duke will face Marquette in their semifinal, looking to avoid a repeat of the 2006 final, where they fell to the Golden Eagles. Gonzaga takes on Kansas State in the second game of the doubleheader, with Wildcat fans likely to be well represented in Kansas City.
Georgia Tech faces UTEP in a battle of two teams who snuck into last year's NCAA field, while Syracuse, who looks to have reloaded, takes on Michigan, a team looking to get on track in John Beilein's fourth season.
Check my Early Season Events page for more schedule and TV information, as well as a look at other events (round-robins, events still in the planning stage).
As for team schedules, numerous schools released at least the non-conference portions of their slates over the past week.
If you know of any that I missed, please leave the info in the comments or e-mail me at bloggingthebracket at gmail dot com.