2017-18 MTE and Neutral Site Showcase Preview Series: Legends Classic, Host Bracket

Robert Williams (44) surprised many with his decision to return to school for his sophomore season. Now, he will look to lead Texas A&M into contention in the SEC in 2017-18.

CALGARY, Alta. — The 2017-18 season is just around the corner, and while there’s a debate on Twitter as to when the season actually starts, it can’t get here soon enough.

Schedules are being released with each passing weekday, and many of them feature early-season tournaments and multi-team events all throughout non-conference play. According to Chris Dobbertean and Blogging the Bracket, there are over 30 multi-team tournaments, and another handful of neutral site showcases and non-exempt events.

So, with the season coming up, we thought we would go through and preview all of the early-season tournaments, the non-exempt tournaments, and a wide array of the neutral site showcase events. In total, we will preview 75 different events over the course of the next 75 days, culminating on opening day.

We selected the events at random, and have broken some up into two pieces, like the Phil Knight Invitational, since there are two separate brackets.

Today, we take a look at the Host Bracket of the 2017 Legends Classic.

Event: Legends Classic, Hosts’ Bracket
Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Dates: November 20 & 21, 2017
Number of Teams: Four
2016-17 Winner: Notre Dame Fighting Irish


History of the Legends Classic

The 2017 edition of the Legends Classic marks the 11th anniversary of the inception of the Legends Classic, and what a decade it has been for high-caliber basketball at the event.

Year in and year out, talented power conference teams from across the country have ascended on either New Jersey (first five years), or the Barclays Center (last four years) to take part in the event. There have been a ton of marquee names who have played in the event, along with some of the strongest teams in the country each year.

Back in 2014, the Legends Classic had arguably their strongest field ever, with three of the four teams in the Hosts’ Bracket being ranked inside the top 20 in the country. The Villanova Wildcats, then ranked 12th in the country, knocked off the 19th-ranked Michigan Wolverines in the Championship Game, 60-55.

The list of players who have played in the Legends Classic and gone on to hear their name called in the NBA Draft is rather impressive. The list includes the likes of Draymond GreenD.J. AugustinBen SimmonsNoah VonlehMike MuscalaChandler Parsons, and many, many more.

It’s safe to assume that there will be a few players from the 2017 field who will be drafted in the years to come.


2017 Field

Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Oklahoma State Cowboys, and Texas A&M Aggies

The field for the Hosts’ Bracket of the 2017 Legends Classic features four teams who all have something to prove this season. Whether it’s a coach on the hot seat, or key players having left from last season, a big performance in the Legends Classic could go a long way for team success as the 2017-18 season moves along.

On paper, the best team in the field comes from the SEC. The Texas A&M Aggies boast a back court duo of junior Admon Gilder and graduate transfer Duane Wilson, who comes to College Station from the Marquette Golden Eagles. Gilder averaged 13.7 points per game last season, and led the Aggies with an average of 34.8 minutes per night.

Up front is where the Aggies will leave their mark this season. A front court rotation that features Tyler DavisD.J. Hogg, and SEC Player of the Candidate Robert Williams will keep the Aggies competitive night in and night out.

Following last season, many expected Williams to depart for the NBA Draft after a freshman season that saw him average 11.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. However, the First Team All-SEC Defensive Team selection opted to return for a sophomore season, and turned Texas A&M into a sleeper in the conference.


Their opponent in the semi-finals, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, weren’t so lucky in the off-season when it comes to their best player from a season ago.

Sophomore guard Jawun Evans opted to leave Stillwater, OK after two season to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. Evans, who averaged 19.2 points and 6.4 assists per game last year, was selected in the Second Round of the 2017 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, then traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Add in the losses of Phil Forte III, and the Cowboys have some holes to fill on the back end.

Now, the Cowboys will turn to incoming graduate transfer Kendall Smith to carry the load on the offensive end of the floor. Smith averaged 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game last season for the Cal State Northridge Matadors. Smith, who is eligible right away, will be a nice replacement for Evans for the Cowboys.

A returning Jeffrey Carroll and a healthy Tavarius Shine will hold down the front court, but they will need others to step up and add depth across the board.


In the other semi-final match-up, we have a coach on the hot seat leading his team against a former rival who saw their best player transfer to another school within their conference this off-season.

The Penn State Nittany Lions are a team who has had talent on paper in recent years, but haven’t been able to translate the potential and hype into on-court results. Head coach Pat Chambers is on the hot seat this season, and will look to lead the Nittany Lions to a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Penn State will be led by sophomores Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens, both of whom played high school basketball together at Roman Catholic. Carr was the 50th-ranked recruit in the Class of 2016 rankings on ESPN, and was named the 2016 Pennsylvania Player of the Year by USA Today. As a freshman, he averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 assists per game, both of which were season highs.

Add in the experience and talent of senior guard Shep Garner, and the Nittany Lions have a back court tandem that can hold their own with the best of the best that the Big Ten has to offer.


Their opponents, the Pittsburgh Panthers, have the most question marks of the four teams in this year’s Legends Classic. They lost the most from last season, and need players to step up in a big way, and fast, in 2017-18.

Leading scorer Cameron Johnson opted to transfer following the 2016-17 season. After an interesting situation, one in which the Panthers tried to limit where he could transfer, Johnson eventually committed to the North Carolina Tar Heels, where he is immediately eligible this season as a graduate transfer.

With the transfer of Johnson, and the departures of Michael YoungJamel Artis, Chris Jones, and Sheldon Jeter, the Panthers will be without their top five scorers from a season ago. Their top returning scorer is senior Ryan Luther, who averaged 5.7 points per game in 21 contests.

It will be a tough year for head coach Kevin Stallings, as he looks to get his newcomers into his system early on. Graduate transfer Monty Boykins brings experience from the Lafayette Leopards, and he will be a big piece of the puzzle from the outset. Add in Canadian freshman guard Marcus Carr and JUCO transfer Jared Wilson-Frame, and the Panthers have the talent, but are unproven at the top level.


2017 Bracket (Full Bracket Here)

Semi-Finals (November 20th, 2017)

Texas A&M v. Oklahoma State (6:30pm EST)
Penn State v. Pittsburgh (9:00pm EST)

Consolation Game (November 21st, 2017)

Loser of TXAM/OKST v. Loser of PSU/PITT (3:30pm EST)

Championship (November 21st, 2017)

Winner of TXAM/OKST v. Winner of PSU/PITT (6:00pm EST)

*Note: All four teams in the Hosts’ Bracket will play two of the four teams in the Visitors’ Bracket in ‘Regional Games’ in non-conference play.


Projections

Semi-Finals

Texas A&M Aggies v. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Winner: Texas A&M

Penn State Nittany Lions v. Pittsburgh Panthers
Winner: Penn State

Consolation Game

Oklahoma State Cowboys v. Pittsburgh Panthers
Winner: Oklahoma State

Championship

Texas A&M Aggies v. Penn State Nittany Lions
Winner: Texas A&M


When a team returns their leading scorer from a season ago, plus a top contender for SEC Player of the Year, and you put them in a four-team event against three teams who have their fair share of question marks on both ends of the floor, it’s a great spot to be in.

That’s the situation that Texas A&M finds themselves in as a part of the Hosts’ Bracket in the 2017 Legends Classic. The core group of Williams, Gilder, Hogg, and Davis will lead the Aggies to a confidence-boosting title at the Legends Classic, and set them up for success as conference play rolls around.

– T. Bennett