2017-18 MTE and Neutral Site Showcase Preview Series: Crossroads Classic

Bonzie Colson is a front-runner for the Wooden Award in 2017-18, and he will look to help lead Notre Dame to a win over Indiana in the 2017 Crossroads Classic.

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 2017 Crossroads Classic.

Event: Crossroads Classic
Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse; Indianapolis, IN
Dates: December 16th, 2017
Number of Teams: Four
2016-17 Winner: N/A


About the Crossroads Classic

The Crossroads Classic is an annual event that features four teams from the state of Indiana, and takes place inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

During odd numbered years, the Purdue Boilermakers take on the Butler Bulldogs, while the Indiana Hoosiers take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. During even numbered years, the Irish square off with the Boilermakers, and the Hoosiers take on the Bulldogs.

Due to the Boilermakers and Hoosiers playing in the Big Ten, they do not face off in the Crossroads Classic, as they play later on in the season. So, that means the Bulldogs and Fighting Irish don’t meet in the Crossroads Classic.

The event was designed to replace a former non-conference event, the Hoosier Classicwhich took place inside Hinkle Fieldhouse. In 2014, it was announced that the field and event had been renewed until 2019.

Back in 2016, all four teams entered the event ranked inside the top 25 for the first time in the event’s history.


2017 Field

The state of Indiana is home to some of the nation’s top basketball programs, and four power conference foes square off in the Crossroads Classic.

Heading into the 2017-18 season, one could make the case that the most intriguing team in the state can be found in South Bend. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have themselves a National Player of the Year candidate in Bonzie Colson, and while they lose their fair share of talent from last season, they have an exciting crop of young talent who could step up and become significant factors this season.

Colson averaged a double-double last season as a junior, recording 17.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, both of which were team-high figures. With the loss of V.J. Beachem in the front court, all eyes will be on Colson this season.

On the back end, Mike Brey will be without Steve Vasturia and Matt Ryan, but he returns an underrated scoring guard in Matt Farrell, and Temple Gibbs has a year of collegiate basketball now under his belt. Gibbs averaged 4.7 points per game in just over 15 minutes of action per night, and will see an expanded role as a sophomore, which will lead to more court time and more production on both ends of the floor.

The key for the Irish could very well be the play of freshman D.J. Harvey. The four-star wing has the versatility to play in the back court, or up front in a smaller lineup, and will be a nice addition to the front court rotation alongside Colson. He shoots the ball well from all areas of the floor, and has the athleticism to attack the rim and finish above the rim.


On December 16th, the Fighting Irish will square off with the Indiana Hoosiers, who enter the season with a new bench boss, in Archie Miller. The Tom Crean saga came to an end following the 2016-17 season, and the Hoosiers made a big splash in getting Miller from the Dayton Flyers.

Miller has had an extremely positive impact on the Hoosiers since becoming their head coach back on March 25th. He has already landed a trio of four-star prospects for the Class of 2018, but it remains to be seen as to what he can orchestrate with this year’s roster.

The Hoosiers will be without three of their top five scorers, including OG Anunoby and Thomas Bryant, which leaves some holes up front that will be tough to fill. Their top returning scorer is senior guard Robert Johnson, who averaged 12.8 points per game a season ago. Fellow guard Josh Newkirk is also back for his senior season, and he will look to put together a strong season after underwhelming in his first season with the Hoosiers after transferring from the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Miller will need to see big improvements from the likes of Freddie McSwain, Jr.and Juwan Morgan up front to help fill the voids left by Anunoby and Bryant. He may need to turn to his freshmen big men early in the season as he searches for the right mix up front.


In the other match-up, the Purdue Boilermakers enter the season without their key big man from a season ago, but they also possess a 7’2” center who is ready for his time in the spotlight.

Purdue will be without Caleb Swanigan in 2017-18, but big man Isaac Haas is ready to step into the spotlight. Haas only played 19.5 minutes per game last season, but he finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per contest while shooting 57.7% from the field. He hasn’t played starter minutes over his career, but with a need for an impact forward up front, look for Haas to step up to the plate and thrive in his senior season.

Forward Vincent Edwards (12.6 ppg, 3.2 apg) will take some of the attention away from Haas, which will benefit both players over the course of the season. Then, if teams focus too much on the forwards, the Boilermakers have a talented back court that can do their fair share of damage.

Purdue boasts a back court rotation that features Carsen Edwards (10.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg), Dakota Mathias (9.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.8 apg), Ryan Cline (5.4 ppg), and P.J. Thompson (7.4 ppg, 2.9 apg). With the exception of Edwards, who is a sophomore, the others have at least two years of experience in the NCAA, and while their stat lines won’t blow you away, you can’t put a price on experience in college basketball.


Rounding out the 2017 field for the Crossroads Classic is a team that could very well contend with the Villanova Wildcats atop the Big East standings in February. The Butler Bulldogs aren’t the flashiest team in the NCAA, but they know how to get things done year in and year out.

Leading the way is big man Kelan Martin, who will be in the conversation for Big East Player of the Year from the outset of the season. The 6’7” senior averaged a team-best 16.0 points per game last season, and with several key departures on the roster, that number should increase this season.

Butler will be without Andrew ChrabasczAvery Woodson, and Kethan Savage from last year’s roster, which is a ton of talent to lose

That puts a premium on incoming transfer Paul Jorgensen, who is eligible this season after transferring from the George Washington Colonials and red-shirting last season due to NCAA regulations. Jorgensen averaged 4.9 points and 2.1 assists per game as a sophomore in 2015-16, and will look to become a focal point of the back court rotation for the Bulldogs this season.

Add in the return of sophomore Kamar Baldwin and senior Tyler Wideman, and the Bulldogs have the talent returning to contend in the Big East, if everyone can mesh together.


Schedule

December 16th, 2017

Purdue Boilermakers v. Butler Bulldogs

Indiana Hoosiers v. Notre Dame Fighting Irish


Projections

Purdue v. Butler
Winner: Purdue Boilermakers

Indiana v. Notre Dame
Winner: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

– T. Bennett