Michigan State headlines field for Coaches vs. Cancer Classic
The 2013 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic is scheduled for Nov. 22-23 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. With a preseason top-five team in the hunt for the title, the tournament promises to be one of the better early season events of the year.
Teams: Michigan State, Oklahoma, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech
The bracket for the Classic will be released at a later date, likely sometime in August once non-conference schedules are finalized. Read more on the tournament here.
This one's a no-brainer. Head coach Tom Izzo might have his most talented team since reaching the national title game in 2009, bringing back nearly every piece of a team that went 27-9 with a Sweet 16 appearance last year. Proven guards Keith Appling and Gary Harris will run the show out of the backcourt, while Adreian Payne could be one of the better forwards in college basketball next season. If the Spartans don't come out on top in Brooklyn, it will be a major surprise.
Can anyone challenge MSU?
The Oklahoma Sooners reached the NCAA Tournament last season, but lose their top-two scorers to graduation and will rely heavily on mostly unproven players in 2013-14. Seton Hall and Virginia Tech finished last year with sub-.500 records and are not expected to take major steps forward next season. Will one of these three teams rise up and give the heavily-favored Spartans a challenge? It's something to keep an eye on.
Replacing Romero Osby
Osby's impact on OU the past two seasons cannot be overlooked. He averaged 16 points and seven rebounds as a senior last year, leading the Sooners to a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The year before he led Oklahoma with nearly 13 points and 7.3 rebounds a night. At 6'8 and 235 pounds, his impact in the paint on the defensive end was felt every night, too.
For a school that has gone dancing in March more times than not over the course of the last 30 years, head coach Lon Kruger will need to find a new go-to player for late in games.
James Johnson's second year begins
Johnson was hired in April 2012 to replace Seth Greenberg, who finally managed to bring some life into the Virginia Tech program. Johnson's first year was mostly unsuccessful, winning just four ACC games before ending the year with a 13-19 record.
The biggest challenge will be replacing ACC Player of the Year Erick Green, who was one of the nation's top scorers last season. Green was a star for the Hokies, and it'll require a multi-player effort to try and replicate what he meant to the team. A couple of early season upset wins could go a long way for coach Johnson as he looks to get above .500 during his second year in Blacksburg.
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