Early season tournaments continue to emerge and increase from a competition standpoint. Non-conference schedules have gotten tougher and college basketball fans prepare for premier match-ups and upsets even in November.
Let’s take a look at the Paradise Jam.
Tournament Date(s): November 16-19, 2012.
Tournament Location(s): University of the Virgin Islands, U. S. Virgin Islands.
Tournament Summary: While this year’s crop for Paradise Jam may not be very star-studded, there are a number of talented mid-majors, in addition to one school that everyone will be watching this year: Connecticut. After losing Jim Calhoun as head coach, the Huskies have uncertain expectations and are banned from postseason play due to low APR scores. We’ll see what positives new coach Kevin Ollie can take out of this situation. Mercer has battled Belmont for the Atlantic Sun title the past few years and has come out on the short end of the stick. The Bears could get a leg up on their rival with some wins at the Paradise Jam. Wake Forest may need to win this tournament more than anyone. The Demon Deacons want to rebound from a bad year last season and do return top scorers C. J. Harris and Travis McKie, but in a rising ACC, non-conference wins are even more important. George Mason was on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament last season, but now without Ryan Pearson, the Patriots need others to step up. Illinois-Chicago won’t bother anyone in this tournament (3-15 in the Horizon last year). Quinnipiac will be giving junior Ike Azotam the reigns of the team and hope he keeps them as competitive as they’ve been in recent years. Iona and New Mexico will both be missing their stars, Scott Machado and Drew Gordon respectively, but they’ll each have a nice amount of firepower and the opportunity to dance again in 2013. For the Gaels, this is Momo Jones‘ team now, for the Lobos, watch out for Kendall Williams.
Player to Watch: Ryan Boatright, Connecticut: This may surprise some people, but I did say that all eyes will be on Connecticut, so won’t we want to see how they do? Sure, they were terrible in Big East play last year and lost Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond to the NBA Draft, so how could they possibly be good? With the backcourt tandem of Boatright and Shabazz Napier, that’s how. We know what we get with Napier. He’s run the offense and can score in bunches. That’s why Boatright is so appealing. After an impressive freshman season, it still remains to be seen just how good he can be. Boatright is a fierce scorer who uses athleticism and quickness to make up for his lack of size. He can get to the rim as well as shoot from long range. If Boatright can make the leap, the Huskies could actually be sneaky good.