Each year, the early season tournaments provide basketball fans across the country with some of the more exciting basketball they will see during non-conference action. The potential to see two teams face off that one normally wouldn’t get to see, for various reasons, is enticing to even the most casual basketball fans.
When the field for the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament was initially released, it peaked the interest of many fans. With power programs like Utah and Butler in the field, along with teams like Miami and Temple, the field had the potential to be one of the better early-season tournaments of the year.
While the bracket and match-ups weren’t projected to be released until August, they have been confirmed early. To sum things up, this is going to be a tournament that you don’t want to miss, because the match-ups from top to bottom will all be fun to watch.
Below, you can find the opening round match-ups, complete with a few tournament notes and CCR’s full projections for the tournament.
Quarter-Final Match-Ups (Nov. 26th, 2015)
Mississippi State Bulldogs v. Miami Hurricanes
Texas Tech Red Raiders v. Utah Utes
Missouri State Bears v. Butler Bulldogs
Minnesota Golden Gophers v. Temple Owls
The 2015 field for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off is filled with story lines all across the field, as some teams are looking to get back on the map in terms of overall success, while others are looking to get accustomed to a new-look line-up.
Earlier this off-season, the Utah Utes got a huge boost when big man Jakob Poeltl opted to return for his sophomore campaign. Poeltl was projected by many to be a lottery selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, but he chose another year of school instead. His return made the Utes a top contender in the Pac-12 once again this season.
The Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament will be a good test for the Utes, as they get accustomed to life without point guard Delon Wright. The tournament will do two things for the Utes, with the first thing being that they can iron out who will be their starting point guard. The second thing will allow the coaching staff and team to see how they play against semi-strong competition, and help prepare themselves for the grind of Pac-12 play. Utah returns virtually everyone from last year’s team, with the exception of Wright, so establishing a point guard early on will help them significantly moving forward.
For Ben Howland and the Mississippi State Bulldogs, playing in the tournament could help them get back on the right track. It will also give the nation it’s first good look at incoming point guard Malik Newman, who is the 10th-ranked recruit in the class of 2015, according to ESPN. It will be interesting to see the kind of impact that Newman has on a Bulldogs’ team that is coming off of a down year in the SEC. This will be the perfect stage for Mississippi State to see how they stack up against talented opponents, and with the way Howland hit the ground running when he was hired by the Bulldogs, don’t be surprised to see them win a game or two in the tournament.
Last season in the NIT, the Miami Hurricanes and the Temple Owls squared off in the semi-finals. The Hurricanes came away with the 60 – 57 win, before losing to Stanford in the NIT finals. If the cards fall into place, these two teams could meet once again, this time in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off finals or the third-place game. Miami brings back Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, among others, while Temple welcomes back stars like Quenton DeCosey. If Temple and Miami do cross paths, fans are in for a treat.
Other teams like the Butler Bulldogs and the Minnesota Golden Gophers could be in contention for post-season berths at the end of the season, so this will provide fans with an early look at both of these squads.
Last season, the West Virginia Mountaineers took down the Connecticut Huskies in the finals, 78 – 68, to come home with the title.
Who will win this year? Here’s our full set of projections for the event.
Miami over Mississippi State
Utah over Texas Tech
Butler over Missouri State
Temple over Minnesota
Mississippi State over Texas Tech
Minnesota over Missouri State
Utah over Miami
Butler over Temple
7th/8th Place: Texas Tech over Missouri State
5th/6th Place: Mississippi State over Minnesota
3rd/4th Place: Miami over Temple
Championship: Utah over Butler