To catch up on all of the posts in this series, visit the 2015-16 Early Season Events hub.
What is it?
The Directv Wooden Legacy (official website)
Where and when is it?
This event takes place at two sites in Orange County, California over Thanksgiving weekend. Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton will host the quarterfinals on Thanksgiving Day and the semifinals on Friday, November 27th. For the finals on Sunday, November 29th, action shifts to Anaheim's Honda Center, site of the Big West Tournament.
There will also be at least three non-bracketed games that will take place between November 19th and December 9th.
When did this event begin?
The Wooden Legacy is the result of the merger of the 76/Directv/Anaheim Classic, which ESPN created as the Disneyland equivalent of the then-Old Spice Classic (now Advocare Invitational) in 2007, with the non-exempt John R. Wooden Classic. That event began in 1994 as a neutral-site doubleheader at the Honda Center (or Arrowhead Pond as it was then called). This event always featured UCLA, and in its final two seasons, 2011 and 2012, was reduced to one game, with the 2011 edition a conference game against Arizona.
The 76/Directv/Anaheim Classic was played at the Anaheim Arena, which is part of the Convention Center complex directly across Katella Street from Disneyland. This is where I spent Thanksgiving weekend of 2009.
Will it be on TV?
Much like the Advocare Invitational, all Wooden Legacy contests will air on an ESPN outlet or be streamed on ESPN3. The three non-bracketed games will air on outlets affiliated with the entities that control the home team's media rights. For example, BC at Providence will most likely air on Fox Sports 1.
Jog my memory. Who won in 2014?
Washington defeated UTEP, 68-65.
Who is participating in 2015?
Arizona Wildcats (Pac-12)
Boise State Broncos (MW)
Boston College Eagles (ACC)
Evansville Aces (MVC)
Michigan State Spartans (Big Ten)
Providence Friars (Big East)
Santa Clara Broncos (WCC)
UC Irvine Anteaters (Big West)
Fields for ESPN's Orange County tournament usually have a Western feel, and four of this season's participants are based in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones (a reduction of one from last season).
The Big West, as sponsoring conference, always places a team in the field. This time around, it's the defending conference tournament champion. That last happened in 2008, when Cal State Fullerton finished seventh after claiming the 2007-08 auto bid.
Have any of these teams played in this event before?
UC Irvine represented the Big West in the first 76 Classic in 2007, going 0-3. One season later, Providence went 1-2. Boston College and Santa Clara both participated in 2010, but didn't meet. The Broncos finished a surprising third, while the Eagles went 1-2, to finish sixth.
How about in other ESPN-owned events?
Evansville is the only one of the eight teams making its debut in an ESPN field this season, but most of the others have only participated sparingly. Last season, Michigan State defeated Santa Clara in a non-bracketed game for the Orlando Classic, an event the Spartans were runners-up in, while Boston College finished fourth in Puerto Rico.
Boise State was the runner-up in the 2013 Diamond Head Classic, an event Arizona won a season earlier. Providence has played in San Juan twice, finishing second in the first tournament in 2007 and seventh in 2012. That same season, Boston College went 0-3 in Charleston. The Eagles finished third in Orlando in 2010, while Michigan State claimed fifth there back in 2008.
Have any of these teams met in other recent exempt tournaments?
In a round-robin to open the 2012-13 season, Boise State gave Michigan State a scare, with the Spartans prevailing by a 74-70 count. Arguably, that loss helped push the Broncos' RPI up enough to keep them in the frame for a bid, which ended up being a place in the First Four. Going further back in time, Arizona defeated Santa Clara in a 2010 Las Vegas Invitational matchup.
The Wildcats and Broncos had an unexpected encounter in the 2008 NIT Season Tip-Off. Arizona was one of the four host schools that season, but UAB upset them in Tucson to earn the trip to New York at the Cats' expense. (The Blazers ended up falling to BC in the third-place game.) So, Russ Pennell's squad traveled to Georgia (the Bulldogs were the two seed in the region Purdue hosted and won), where they defeated both Mississippi Valley State and Santa Clara. Curiously, the organizers didn't pair the two power conference opponents.
So, what does the bracket look like?
Much like the Charleston Classic, a trio of non-bracketed games limited the organizers' choices. Boise State visits Arizona, eliminating a possible semifinal option, while Providence hosts former Big East rival Boston College, and Santa Clara travels to UC Irvine. CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein once again was able to get a look at the bracket a couple of weeks before ESPN's typical early August release date. It looks like this.
Here's a PDF version of the bracket (Eastern Time).
A Michigan State-Arizona final is obviously the goal, so here's how I forecast the rest of this event playing out here in early August.
Boise State over UC Irvine, though the Anteaters are capable of winning this one
Michigan State over Boston College
Providence over Evansville, though the Aces could pull off an upset
Arizona over Santa Clara
UC Irvine over Boston College
Evansville over Santa Clara
Michigan State over Boise State
Arizona over Providence
7th/8th Place: Boston College over Santa Clara
5th/6th Place: UC Irvine over Evansville
3rd/4th Place: Boise State over Providence
Championship: Arizona over Michigan State
Tomorrow, this series continues with a look at the event in Las Vegas that's been around the longest out of a still-growing group.
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