Holiday tournaments are well under way and one of the better fields gathers in Fullerton, California on Thanksgiving for the Wooden Legacy. The field is highlighted by Michigan State and Arizona but also includes the likes of Boise State, UC-Irvine, Santa Clara, Boston College, Providence and Evansville. Here is a look at the first-round match ups for the tournament.
Boise State (2-2) vs UC-Irvine (4-0)
Senior guard Anthony Drmic has returned from injury for the Broncos and promptly leads them in scoring through four games with over 18 a contest. But it has been the junior duo of Nick Duncan and James Webb III that have carried Boise State offensively with a combined 28 points, 12.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, while Drmic’s backcourt mate senior Mikey Thompson has added over 14 points and a team-high five assists per game.
Defensively the Broncos have a bunch to worry about when facing the Anteaters. First and foremost is the man in the middle, 7-6 300lb. junior center Mamadou Ndiaye averages over three blocks a game to go along with his 10 points and five rebounds on the offensive end. UC-Irvine also has a couple of international guards much like Boise State. Both Luke Nelson (16 points) and Alex Young (eight points) competed for Great Britain this summer in international competition. Joining Ndiaye up front is 6-10 senior Mike Best who is averaging over 12 points and five rebounds for the undefeated Anteaters.
Michigan State (4-0) vs Boston College (3-0)
The Spartans are 4-0 including a win over Kansas in the Champions’ Classic. They have been led, perhaps predictably by their senior All-American candidate Denzel Valentine who has averaged nearly a triple double so far with 15.3 points, nine rebounds and 9.8 assists in fact he did accomplish the feat in the win over Kansas. It has been the interior play that has carried the Spartans thus far. Freshman Deyonta Davis, sophomore Javon Bess and senior Matt Costello combined for 30.8 points and 20 rebounds so far this season.
The Eagles have a total of one senior on the roster that was with the program last season. Despite such a young squad coach Jim Christian has the team off to a 3-0 start with three convincing wins. The only other senior on the roster, graduate transfer Eli Carter has immediately been a leader leading the Eagles in points at 18.7 per game. The only other Eagle in double figures is freshman Jerome Robinson at 13.3 points. The Eagles have won this year with defense, holding each opponent under 60 points. How long can they hold down the Spartans.
Evansville (3-0) vs Providence (4-0)
The Evansville Purple Aces may be the forgotten team in the Missouri Valley with the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa but they are a dangerous team. They have an inside-out duo of seniors D.J. Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius who are both averaging over 20 points a game. Mockevicius is also averaging over 13 rebounds per contest, juniors Jaylon Brown (10) and Mislav Brzoja (12.3) are the other Purple Aces in double figures.
The Providence Friars return the best guard in the country in Kris Dunn but they also must replace key cogs Tyler Harris and LaDontae Henton. They are off to a 4-0 start thanks to Dunn and his 18.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists a game. Dunn isn’t alone however, sophomores Ben Bentil and Rodney Bullock have lit it up for the Friars with 31.8 points, 16.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
Arizona (4-0) vs Santa Clara (0-5)
The Wildcats lost a ton of talent after last season but they still have plenty at their disposal. Senior Gabe York leads the team with 16 points with Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson averaging a double-double (13.7 points, 10.3 rebounds) and freshman Allonzo Trier is contributing 13.3 points. In the middle Sean Miller’s squad has a trio of guys helping out. Between seniors Kaleb Tarczewski and Mark Tollefsen and sophomore Dusan Ristic averaging 22.8 points and 18.3 rebounds for the undefeated Wildcats.
The Broncos have struggled to an 0-5 start and they have struggled on offense scoring no more than 65 points in a game. They are led predictably by their dynamic junior guard Jared Brownridge and his 15.4 points but fellow junior Nate Kratch has contributed 8.4 points and 10 rebounds per game.
The Wooden Legacy may not have the pub of the Maui Invitational or the Battle 4 Atlantis but the field and match ups are quite intriguing.