When you talk about short, sweet tournaments, it doesn’t get much better than the 2K Classic. Four teams travel to New York City to play in college basketball’s most prestigious venue in what promises to be a great weekend of hoops. Texas battles Iowa in one matchup, while Syracuse meets Cal in the other half of the four-team bracket.
The night cap of the double-header at Madison Square Garden is where I focus for Thursday’s free pick. Syracuse and Cal both come into this one undefeated after taking care of a couple cupcakes (they’ve each pulverized Kennesaw State), and ready to play a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender.
Cal returns a good chunk of talent from last year’s team, including Tyrone Wallace, David Kravish and Jabari Bird. But the Bears lose guard Justin Cobbs and big man Richard Solomon. Solomon also missed these two teams’ meeting last year, when the ‘Cuse ran away at the end for an 11-point win. The Orange lose Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant and CJ Fair from a team that spent a significant chunk of the first half of the season as the number one team in the country. They have played just two games against sub-par opponents, but Chris McCullough, BJ Johnson and Tyler Roberson look ready to replace Fair and Grant’s production on the perimeter. The keys to the game will be the usual suspects: Cal’s outside shooting, Syracuse’s defensive rebounding and the energy level of David Kravish. Kravish has the ability to break the 2-3 zone with his size and tough from 18-20 feet. If he gets into the middle of that zone and is prepared to make decisive moves and play one of the better games of his career, Cal can win this game on Syracuse’s pseudo home court.
But for Cuozo Martin, the former Tennessee coach and new coach at Cal, this game represents the first competitive game he should coach for the Golden Bears. And that should give Syracuse the advantage early on in the season – a time that usually goes well for the ‘Cuse anyway. This win should look great for Cuse against an opponent who will probably finish the year as a lot better of a team than it is at the start. The Orange wins in NYC.
Free Pick: Syracuse -5
2014 College Hoops: 0-2 -2.2