To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2017-18 Early Season Events Hub.
What Is It?
How Long Has This Event Been Around?
Since this tournament has a more complex history than most of the ones ESPN has launched, I will defer to my 2015 primer...
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.
When And Where Is It?
Since the merger, the event featured split venues, with the Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton hosting Thursday and Friday’s action and the Honda Center in Anaheim serving as the venue for the finals. However, for this season and 2018, Titan Gym will host all three days of action.
The quarterfinals are set for Thanksgiving Day, November 23rd, with the semifinals on Friday, November 24th, and the finals on Sunday, November 26th.
If you click the link to the venue change release above, you’ll notice that the Wooden Legacy’s field originally included the DePaul Blue Demons. I figured something was amiss when this event didn’t release its bracket along with the other ESPN-owned events in late July. And a week later, we had our answer. The Georgetown Hoyas dropped out of the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland necessitating the Blue Demons’ shift into that field—with Dave Leitao’s team replacing the Hoyas as the Michigan State Spartans quarterfinal opponent in the Portland tourney’s Victory Bracket. In turn, Sacramento State of the Big Sky—the third California State University campus in this field—took DePaul’s place. That means the quarterfinal matchups look like this:
- Saint Mary’s Gaels (WCC) vs. Harvard Crimson (Ivy)
- Saint Joseph’s Hawks (Atlantic 10) vs. Washington State Cougars (Pac-12)
- Georgia Bulldogs (SEC) at Cal State Fullerton Titans (Big West)
- San Diego State Aztecs (Mountain West) vs. Sacramento State Hornets (Big Sky)
Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?
Even though Saint Mary’s routed Cal State Fullerton in Moraga last night, 76-57, that game wasn’t a non-bracketed game for this event. But the Gaels are involved in one—December 4th’s home game against Sacramento State, a late addition to both squads’ schedules.
Did Any Of These Teams Reach The 2017 Postseason?
How Strong Is This Event?
Based on the average four-year rankings of the participants, the 2017 Wooden Legacy ranks 9th out of 14 eight-team bracketed tournaments and 18th out of 38 bracketed tournaments.
Have Any Of These Teams Played In This Event Before?
San Diego State is the only former champion in the field—the Aztecs stunned the Marquette Golden Eagles in 2013’s final. Saint Mary’s twice participated in the old Anaheim/76/Directv Classic, going 2-1 in 2008 and 1-2 in 2012. Washington State dropped all three of its 2011 games, while Cal State Fullerton has won just once in six tries over two appearances (2008’s 76 Classic and 2013’s Wooden Legacy).
What About Other ESPN Events Tournaments?
San Diego State has twice reached the Diamond Head Classic final, winning last season over the San Francisco Dons and losing 2012’s edition to Arizona. Washington State did so once, falling to the Butler Bulldogs in 2010. However, the Cougars’ 2015 trip to Honolulu, a seventh-place finish, wasn’t as successful. On the other hand, Harvard finished as runner-up to the Oklahoma Sooners that same season. Saint Mary’s two trips to O’ahu resulted in third-place (2009) and eighth-place (2013) finishes.
Saint Joseph’s defeated Wazzu in the fifth-place game of the then-Old Spice Classic at Walt Disney World in 2013 and managed a third-place finish at the 2011 Charleston Classic.
Georgia went 0-2 in New York in 2014’s NIT Season Tip-Off. Saint Joe’s didn’t face the Bulldogs in that tournament and the Hawks dropped their lone “showcase” game at MSG to the WKU Hilltoppers. UGA also went 0-3 on its 2013 Charleston Classic trip and only managed to defeat the Manhattan Jaspers in the 2010 Old Spice Classic.
Amazingly, this will be Sacramento State’s first appearance period in an exempt tournament since I started tracking them.
Are There Any Other Notable Recent Meetings Between These Teams?
Most notably, Saint Mary’s eliminated Georgia in the second round of the 2016 NIT by a 77-65 score in Moraga.
At the start of the most recent 10-season window, the Gaels and San Diego State had a nice little rivalry going. The pair met five times in a four-year span, including a 2009 NIT quarterfinal. (Washington State happened to be Saint Mary’s first round victim.) That postseason game was one of two Aztec victories in the series. The other came in the last meeting—back in December 2010.
Harvard and Saint Joseph’s knocked each other off at home in December 2011 (a Crimson victory) and November 2012 (a Hawk triumph). Weeks after that second meeting, Saint Mary’s won a 70-69 thriller over the Crimson on New Year’s Eve 2012.
Somewhat surprisingly, the three Cal State University squads don’t share a whole lot of history. Cal State Fullerton and Sacramento State each claimed a home win in a series played in December 2013 and 2014, while the Titans lost their most recent meeting with San Diego State, played back in December 2009. Saint Mary’s swept a home-and-home from the Titans that ended in 2008.
Washington State has won four home games played against Sacramento State during the past 10 seasons—the first in November 2008, the last coming last December. The Cougars also shared the 2016 Paradise Jam field with Saint Joe’s, but the two didn’t meet.
Who Won 2016’s Edition?
Did Any 2016 Teams Reach The Postseason?
The Bruins’ season ended in the Sweet Sixteen, and they were one of three squads to make the field of 68. Both the Dayton Flyers and Virginia Tech Hokies dropped their openers, however. None of the other five squads managed a postseason appearance.
Will This Event Be On TV?
All 12 games will appear on an ESPN outlet, but just like with the AdvoCare Invitational, four games from Fullerton will be relegated to ESPN3, thanks to the Phil Knight Invitational. The championship game will appear on ESPN2, but will tip at midnight of the Monday after Thanksgiving on the East Coast.
Who’s Your Pick To Win It?
Saint Mary’s is a slight favorite to deprive the Gonzaga Bulldogs of the West Coast Conference crown this season. With San Diego State coming off a disappointing season and breaking in a new coach, Brian Dutcher, after Steve Fisher’s retirement, Georgia might be the most serious threat to win the championship in the bracket’s bottom half.
It’s a shame Saint Mary’s and Ivy favorite Harvard are paired in the first quarterfinal of Thanksgiving Day. The loser of that game has a great chance of winning on both Friday and Sunday to finish fifth.
Saint Mary’s over Harvard
Saint Joseph’s over Washington State
Georgia over Cal State Fullerton
San Diego State over Sacramento State
Saint Mary’s over Saint Joseph’s
Georgia over San Diego State
(consolation) Harvard over Washington State
(consolation) Cal State Fullerton over Sacramento State
Championship: Saint Mary’s over Georgia
3rd/4th: San Diego State over Saint Joseph’s
5th/6th: Harvard over Cal State Fullerton
7th/8th: Washington State over Sacramento State