It’s early season tournament time and these events are usually fun. You get 8 teams together in a mostly empty arena far from campus close to Thanksgiving break and have them have it out. This year we lost one of the old school events, as the Great Alaska Shootout is no longer being held. It was a victim of the proliferation of these types of events.
The upside to these events is that Purdue is in one pretty much every season now. Here is our recent history in them:
2008-09 – Runner-up, Preseason NIT (The infamous Blake Griffin Game)
2009-10 – Winner, Paradise Jam, U.S. Virgin Islands (Chris Kramer swim move)
2010-11 – Runner-up, Chicago Invitational Challenge (lost to Richmond)
2011-12 – Runner-up, Puerto Rico Shootout (lost to Alabama)
2012-13 – 1-3, 2K Sports Classic (lost home game to Bucknell, the DJ Byrd game vs. Villanova)
2013-14 – 7th place, Old Spice Classic (Lost to Oklahoma State & Washington State, beat Siena)
2014-15 – 5th place, Maui Invitational (lost to Kansas State, beat Missouri & BYU)
2015-16 – Winner, Hall of Fame Classic (Beat Old Dominion & Florida)
2016-17 – Winner, Cancun Challenge (Beat Utah State & Auburn)
2017-18 – 7th place, Battle 4 Atlantis (Lost to Tennessee & W. Kentucky, beat Arizona)
Last year’s event did not go well as Purdue gave up a late tying three to Tennessee before losing in overtime, then lost to Western Kentucky. After blowing out Arizona to salvage the trip we didn’t lose another game for 2.5 months.
This year’s event is the Charleston Classic, and event that is now in its 11th year. It has become a decent event, too. Miami has won it twice, while Virginia and Villanova have also won it recently. Purdue is one of two ranked teams in the field and should be favored to at least reach the final. Five of the eight teams in the field made last year’s NCAA Tournament. If Purdue can win this event it gets at least one solid non-conference victory, possibly two over NCAA caliber teams. Technically Saturday’s win over Ball State was part of this event, as schools are allowed a fourth game on campus that counts as part of it.
Day 1 (November 15):
Ball State vs. #16 Virginia Tech 11:30am, ESPN2
Alabama vs. Northeastern 2pm, ESPNU
#23 Purdue vs. Appalachian State 5pm, ESPN2
Wichita State vs. Davidson 7pm, WatchESPN
The first game of the tournament is very interesting as Ball State, a team that hung around with Purdue on Saturday, faces the top ranked team in the tournament. On the one hand, Purdue gets the most value out of beating someone like VaTech here. On the other, if the Cardinals pull the upset and do well here that win looks pretty good. The Hokies opened the year with an 87-59 win over Gardner Webb, while Ball State is 1-1.
In the second game Alabama is 2-0 with wins over Southern (82-62) and Appalachian State (81-73). They face a Northeastern team that lost to Boston University to open the season 77-74, but then beat Harvard 81-71. Jordan Roland had 35 points in the win over Harvard. Northeastern was 23-10 a year ago, but was upset in their conference tournament final by Charleston. Alabama made the NCAAs last year and beat Virginia Tech in Round 1, but then lost to Villanova by 23.
As for our game, we get arguably the worst team in the tournament. The Mountaineers were 15-18 a year ago and are 1-1 after beating non-D1 Mars Hill to start the season. Justin Forrest leads them at 18.5 points per game and Ronshad Shabazz averages 16.5. Isaac Johnson is also impressive at 15 points and 9 rebounds as a 6’9” junior forward. They have put up some big numbers so far, but this is still a game Purdue will be heavily favored in. They put up 125 against Mars Hill with Forrest scoring 23.
Historically, the Boilers have only played Appalachian State once. We beat them 79-65 in Mackey Arena on December 2nd, 2000. A more recent tie is that Jacob Lawson transferred there for his final two years after starting at Purdue.
In the final day of the game Wichita State (1-1) faces Davidson (2-0). Wichita State was stunned at home by Louisiana Tech 71-58 to start the year, but recovered to get a nice win over Providence 83-80 behind 32 points from Markis McDuffie. The Shockers were highly rated for much of last season, but were a 13 over 4 upset victim at the hands of Marshall. They have been an NCAA regular, however, and famously made the 2013 Final Four. Davidson opened the year with wins over Cleveland State and Dartmouth. Last season they gave Kentucky a game in a 5/12 game before falling 78-73.
Day 1 picks: Virginia Tech, Alabama, Purdue, Wichita State
Day 2 (November 16):
Ball State/Virginia Tech winner vs. Alabama/Northeastern winner 11am, ESPN2orU
Ball State/Virginia Tech loser vs. Alabama/Northeastern loser 1:30pm, ESPN2orU
Purdue/Appalachian State loser vs. Wichita State/Davidson loser 4:30pm, ESPNU
Purdue/Appalachian State winner vs. Wichita State/Davidson winner 6:30pm, ESPNU
Purdue gets the benefit of a later game on Friday, especially if it wins on Thursday. We’re 4-2 against Wichita State all-time, but have not played them since a 62-54 win on December 18, 1989. We’ve only played Davidson once, but that was the memorable 76-58 win in Indianapolis when Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant shut down Steph Curry back in December of 2008.
The Shockers have a great player in McDuffie. The 6’8” senior forward was incredible against Providence and was 6 of 9 from three. He present a tough matchup on the outside with his size, but will likely be a target for Nojel Eastern. Davidson is getting 23.5 points per game from Kellan Grady and 20 points from Jon Axel Gudmundsson. Gudmundsson is a 6’4” guard from Iceland that is also averaging 7.5 rebounds and 5 assists per game. The Wildcats get great guard play from Grady and Gudmundsson, but they don’t have a lot of size to match up with Matt Haarms.
It is honestly hard to pick our second game because Davidson-Wichita State might be the most even matchup of the first day.
Semifinal picks: Virginia Tech & Purdue
Day 3 (November 18):
7th place: 11am, WatchESPN
5th place: 1:30pm, ESPNU
3rd place: 6pm, ESPNU
Championship: 8:30pm, ESPN2
It definitely looks like Purdue and Virginia Tech are on a collision course for the final. We’re 1-2 against the Hokies all-time. The last meeting was a 58-55 overtime win in Blacksburg on December 1, 2010 as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Before that we lost to them twice back in the 60s.
In the opening win over Gardner Webb Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Isaiah Wilkins each had 21 points. It was the college debut for Wilkins, while Alexander-Walker is a 6’5” sophomore from Toronto. They give the Hokies a formidable backcourt where both guys can score.
Virginia Tech is a solid team that got into the tournament last year on the back of beating Duke at home in late February. They also were the only team to beat Virginia in ACC play, edging them by a point at Virginia in one of the more impressive wins of the season. They have made consecutive NCAA Tournaments under Buzz Williams and they have four starters back from last season.
Ultimately, it comes down to their experience. The Hokies also have double-figures scorers in Justin Robinson, Kerry Blackshear, and Ahmed Hill. They are a pretty balanced team that has been together a while. That’s why I want Purdue to play them. We’re still figuring a lot of things out, so this will be a very good early test. After them we would only have one “easy” game against Robert Morris before a gauntlet that has at Florida State, at Michigan, Maryland, at Texas, and then Notre Dame on a neutral floor. How we perform against a balanced and experienced Virginia Tech team will say a lot about that stretch.