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2017 Progressive Legends Classic Primer

Texas A&M, quite possibly the only NCAA Tournament-quality squad traveling to Brooklyn for this event, looks like a heavy favorite to sweep its way to the title.

The 2017 Legends Classic participants
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from Sportslogos.net.

To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2017-18 Early Season Events Hub.

What Is It?

The Progressive Legends Classic

How Long Has This Event Been Around?

From the 2015 Primer...

The Texas Longhorns defeated Tennessee Volunteers in the first Legends Classic final, played at the Prudential Center in Newark on November 24, 2007. Based on the inaugural field, it looks like the Gazelle Group had a bit of a difficult time putting the field together, as no fewer than five non-Division I teams participated in that year's regional rounds, with Texas, Tennessee, and West Virginia all playing Arkansas-Monticello as part of the event.

In 2009, the event moved to Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall, a truly unique venue for college basketball (as I recall the Atlantic 10 Tournament final I attended there the season before) for two years. The most noteworthy thing about the event's tenure on the Jersey Shore is that the two teams I follow the most closely won during those seasons—the Florida Gators in 2009 (thanks to a win over the Michigan State Spartans in the semifinals that basically pushed them into the 2010 NCAA field after two years away) and the Syracuse Orange in 2010.

Two years later, the event was on the move again, this time back to the New York metro area, specifically to the Meadowlands. One season on, in 2012, the tournament made its final move, to Brooklyn.

Much like its sibling, the 2K Classic, this event features "regional" rounds played on the home floors of host schools, typically from power conferences, with the visitors participating in a "subregional" round while the host schools meet in Brooklyn. The format is rather stable now, with four hosts and four visitors, though the number of visitors and the format of the subregional rounds varied widely between 2007 and 2012. Non-Division I teams were often called in to fill gaps before an eight-team format was settled upon in 2013.

When And Where Is It?

The Legends Classic’s hosts’ bracket—also known as the “Championship Rounds”—is scheduled for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Monday, November 20th and Tuesday, November 21st. The four visitors will head to Malibu, California for their subregional, slated for those same dates.

Of the eight “regional” games played on the host schools’ floors, six of the eight will take place before the bracketed rounds—Penn State’s visit from Oral Roberts and Texas A&M’s contest with Pepperdine are the exceptions.

Who's Playing?

The 2017 Legends Classic participants in their semifinal matchups.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from Sportslogos.net.

Three of the four semifinal matchups feature regional rivalries. The Brooklyn lineup features a longtime Big 12 matchup and a reunion of two Keystone State archrivals.

In Malibu, the nightcap will feature an all-Golden State showdown, leaving the two remaining squads to meet each other.

Here are how the on-campus regional matchups look:

  • Montana at Pittsburgh and Penn State
  • Oral Roberts at Oklahoma State and Penn State
  • Pepperdine at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M
  • UC Santa Barbara at Pittsburgh and Texas A&M

Naturally, Oral Roberts was paired with its in-state rival from Stillwater, while Montana will play both Pitt and Penn State in a three-night span.

Did Any Of These Teams Reach The 2017 Postseason?

Oklahoma State lost a thriller to the Michigan Wolverines, 92-91, in the NCAA’s First Round in Indianapolis—a game that turned out to be Brad Underwood’s final contest in charge before his shock departure for Illinois Fighting Illini. But the Cowboys were the lone 2017 postseason participant of these eight teams. In fact, Texas A&M was the only other squad to finish above .500—at 16-15!

How Strong Is This Field?

Based on the average four-year rankings of the participants, the 2017 Legends Classic ranks as follows when compared to other bracketed tournaments:

  • Hosts’ Bracket: 7th of 24 four-team bracketed tournaments; 4th of 38 bracketed tournaments
  • Visitors’ Bracket: 15th of 24 four-team bracketed tournaments; 23rd of 38 bracketed tournaments

Have Any Of These Teams Played In This Event Before?

Pitt has won this event twice—in 2013 and 2008, but they’re the only team of the eight making a return trip.

What About Other Gazelle Group Events?

Again, the Panthers lead the way in this department, as they finished as runners-up to Txas in the then-Gazelle-managed CBE Classic in 2009, gaining some manner of revenge over the ‘Horns in the 2K Classic final one season later. Pitt also won the showcase game of the 2015 Gotham Classic at MSG over the Davidson Wildcats and finished third in last season’s 2K Classic in that same arena.

Other than Texas A&M’s third-place finish in the 2011 2K event and Pepperdine’s appearance in the 2014 Gotham Classic as an MSG showcase team alongside the Richmond Spiders, the remainder of the field has little history in Gazelle-run tournaments.

Are There Any Other Notable Recent Meetings Between These Teams?

Naturally, there were plenty of meetings between the Cowboys and Aggies before A&M’s departure for the SEC after the 2011-12 season. Oklahoma State won the pair’s final meeting as league rivals on February 25, 2012, snapping a four-game losing streak in the series.

Oklahoma State and Pitt met fairly regularly up until that same 2011-12 campaign, with the Panthers winning three of four, all consecutively, in a series that started in December 2006, highlighted by an 84-76 win the the 2009 NCAA Second Round.

As for Pitt and Penn State, the in-state rivals have only met twice over the last decade, both Panther wins. This will be the second season in a row the two play on a neutral floor, as Kevin Stallings’ squad took a 81-73 decision in the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Games in Newark last December. Curiously, Oklahoma State last met its in-state rival in this event, Oral Roberts, back in December 2007—a 15-point Golden Eagle win. Oddly enough, Pitt knocked ORU out of the NCAAs later that season.

Much like the other local rivalries in this season’s tournament, subregional semifinal foes Pepperdine and UCSB haven’t played in quite some time—the Gauchos swept a home-and-home series that ended in December 2007. Amazingly, UCSB has played ORU (a 2014-15 loss) and Pepperdine has met Montana (splitting a series over the last two seasons) more recently. It’s a different story for the Golden Eagles and Grizzlies, as Montana defeated Oral Roberts in the seventh-place game of last season’s Paradise Jam.

Who Won 2016’s Edition?

Regional rivalries dominated last season’s finals. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish took out the Northwestern Wildcats in last year’s Championship Round final by a 70-66 score, while the host Eastern Washington Eagles needed two OTs to defeat the Seattle Redhawks in the Subregional championship game.

Did Any 2016 Teams Reach The Postseason?

Both the Fighting Irish and Wildcats departed the NCAAs in the Second Round, while the Colorado Buffaloes fell at the first hurdle in the NIT, at the hands of the UCF Knights. EWU, meanwhile, lost to the eventual champion Wyoming Cowboys in the CBI’s opening round.

Will This Event Be On TV?

ESPN owns the rights to the Championship Rounds, with the Texas A&M-Oklahoma State semifinal and title tilt set for ESPN2. The Pitt-Penn State game is relegated to ESPN3, while the consolation game will appear on ESPNU.

Pepperdine’s games in the Subregional will be streamed on theW.tv, the WCC’s digital video site. As for the on-campus games, as usual, those will appear on an outlet affiliated with the host school’s conference.

Who’s Your Pick To Win It?

In my opinion, the two strongest teams in the field are paired in the first semifinal, so look for the A&M-Oklahoma State winner to take the title. As for the visitors’ bracket, considering how all four teams struggled last season, host Pepperdine and Montana look to be the most likely champs.

Hosts’ Semifinals

Texas A&M over Oklahoma State
Penn State over Pitt

Hosts’ Finals

Texas A&M over Penn State
(consolation) Oklahoma State over Pitt

Visitors’ Semifinals

Montana over Oral Roberts
Pepperdine over UCSB

Visitors’ Finals

Pepperdine over Montana
(consolation) UCSB over Oral Roberts

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