The Hokie men’s basketball team will spend their Thanksgiving Weekend in
Anaheim, CA playing in the 76 Classic. The action gets started on Thursday
afternoon at 2pm, when the Hokies take on Cal State Northridge at 2pm on ESPNU.
They’ll face either DePaul or Oklahoma State on Friday.
First, let’s take a quick look at the three teams on Virginia Tech’s side of
Cal State Northridge Matadors (1-2)
The Matadors are 1-2 this season, with two blowout losses to the only
Division I teams they have faced: UCLA (83-50) and Cal (80-63). Their only win
came against NAIA school Vanguard University (109-66).
Cal State Northridge is a senior oriented team, though they shouldn’t give
Virginia Tech much trouble if the Hokies show up and play like they are capable.
Here’s a look at their starting lineup.
State Northridge Starting Lineup
The Matadors feature the smallest lineup of any opponent on Tech’s early season
schedule. This team did make the NCAA Tournament two years ago, but they aren’t
likely to be heading back in 2010-11.
Cal State Northridge is coached by Bobby Braswell, who is in his 14th season
as Matador head coach. He is 216-202 overall. However, he was just 11-21 a
season ago, and though his team has some experienced seniors returning for
2010-11, things aren’t projected to go very well.
Rashaun McLemore has provided a scoring spark this year, finishing with 24
points against Cal. However, overall the team has struggled against their two
Pac-10 opponents, and Virginia Tech will probably have too much talent for them
Quick trivia: head coach Bobby Braswell was an assistant under Seth Greenberg
at Long Beach State.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-0)
If the Hokies get past Cal State Northridge, their likely opponent on Friday
is Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are one of the top programs in the Big 12, and
are no stranger to the NCAA Tournament.
Oklahoma State isn’t particularly tall, but they’ll bring a couple of big,
physical players to Anaheim that could pose major problems for Tech’s
frontcourt, should the two teams meet.
State Starting Lineup
Virginia Tech has more length than this starting lineup, but the Cowboys also
have more weight on the inside. Marshall Moses and Darrell Williams are both
excellent rebounders, and Moses is averaging twice as many points per game as he
did a year ago.
Oklahoma State is 3-0 on the year, with wins over Houston Baptist (86-73),
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (68-58) and Nicholls State (76-56). They haven’t
been particularly impressive in those three games, and this will be their first
time venturing outside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Keep your eye on junior guard Keiton Page. He made 137 three-pointers in the
first two years of his career, and he already ranks 10th in the school record
books. He holds the national high school record in career three-point percentage
with a 49.9% mark. His height holds him back, but the Hokies can’t afford to
give him any space from beyond the three-point arc.
The Cowboys are still adjusting to the loss of 6-6 wing James Anderson to the
San Antonio Spurs, where he is averaging seven points per game as a rookie.
Early in the season is the best time to play Oklahoma State as they adjust to
their new lineup.
DePaul Blue Demons (1-1)
Virginia Tech could face DePaul in the second round, if the Hokies get upset
by Cal State Northridge, or the Blue Demons upset Oklahoma State. Neither is
likely to happen, so a second round meeting with DePaul is a long shot.
DePaul is coached by Oliver Purnell, who left Clemson in the offseason. His
team has struggled this far, dropping their most recent game to Western Carolina
69-64. They also lost a scrimmage to the Lewis Flyers, a Division II school.
DePaul basketball lacks talent and a winning tradition. The Blue Demons have
been a perennial bottom feeder in the Big East in recent years. In 2008-09, they
went 0-18 in Big East play, and last year they went 1-17. That’s 1-35 over the
last two seasons. You have Duke football and Vanderbilt football, and below that
you have DePaul basketball.
Oliver Purnell, a very good coach, has his work cut out for him. They are
highly unlikely to make it past Oklahoma State. If the Hokies get upset by Cal
State Northridge, they could still face the Blue Demons in the losers bracket.
The Opposite Bracket
Virginia Tech will face one of these four teams on Sunday, hopefully in the
Murray State (2-1)
Murray State is one of the most underrated basketball programs in the
country, and they came within one shot of defeating national runner up Butler in
last year’s NCAA Tournament. This is a team that is used to success, winning 31
games last season, including seven in a row. Eight of their top 10 players are
back from that team.
The Racers are 2-1, with wins over East Tennessee State and Reinhardt, and a
loss to Ole Miss. Here is a look at their starting lineup.
State Starting Lineup
Murray State is a good team, though they do lack size on the inside like most
mid-majors. One player to keep an eye on who does not start is Donte Poole, who
averages 11.3 points per game and who is a very good three-point shooter. Poole
played in 36 games a year ago, but he has been asked to shoulder more of a
scoring load off the bench this season.
All five of Murray State’s starters were either starters a year ago, or saw
major action off the bench. B.J. Jenkins is a transfer from Liberty, and he
played his high school basketball at Green Run in Virginia Beach.
The Racers will face Stanford in their first game of the 76 Classic at 8pm on
Stanford Cardinal (3-0)
Stanford is 3-0 on the season, with three easy wins against San Diego
(64-48), UVA (81-60) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (94-49). They are an excellent
defensive basketball team, with a lot of length in the backcourt and frontcourt.
The Cardinal went just 14-18 a year ago, but they are playing much better
defensively thus far in 2010, which gives them hopes of making the postseason.
As you can see, Stanford has a lot of length. Freshman forward Dwight Powell was
a five-star recruit, and he’s found his way into the starting lineup in his
first season. The Cardinal also have Andrew Zimmerman (6-8, 230, Jr.), another
big man who comes off the bench. They throw tall players at opponents in waves.
Zimmerman averages 10 points and 4.7 points per game.
Stanford doesn’t have an offensive superstar who will carry the team, but
they rely on their height to challenge shots, and Jeremy Green has done a solid
job scoring thus far.
Stanford is coached by Johnny Dawkins, who should be a familiar face to
Virginia Tech and ACC basketball fans. Dawkins is a former long-time assistant
to Coach K at Duke, and he’s now in his second season leading the Stanford
UNLV Rebels (3-0)
UNLV has to be considered one of the favorites to win the 76 Classic. The
Rebels are well-coached by Lon Kruger, and they are 3-0 on the season. They have
two blowout wins over UC Riverside and Southeastern Louisiana, and they also
defeated #25 Wisconsin 68-65 on Saturday.
UNLV has made the NCAA Tournament in three of the last four seasons. They are
one of the better basketball programs in the country, and they have the talent
to be playing in the middle of March yet again this year.
The Rebels have an outstanding backcourt, and 6-8 swingman Chace Stanback
looks like he’s ready to make this his team. A transfer from UCLA who has played
in the Final Four, Stanback averaged 10 points per game a season ago, and has
been even better so far this year.
Oscar Bellfield led the Mountain West in assist-to-turnover ratio last year,
while Anthony Marshall is a very good defender. UNLV also brings height off
their bench, with Brice Massamba (6-10, 240, Jr.) and Carlos Lopez (6-11, 215,
r-Fr.) providing quality depth.
UNLV is sound on both ends of the floor. Opponents shot just 39.9% against
the Rebels last year, and so far this year they are shooting just 30.1%.
Meanwhile, UNLV is shooting 55.2% from the field and 37.2% from three-point
range. They are the most complete team in the 76 Classic, at this point in the
UNLV will play Tulsa at 11pm on Thursday night on ESPN2.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2-1)
Tulsa was upset by Appalachian State (89-86) in their season opener, but
they’ve come back to defeat Oral Roberts (83-68) and Missouri State (62-50) in
their last two games. Tulsa is a very big basketball team, though they have
probably the toughest draw in the tournament because they have to face UNLV in
the opening round.
Tulsa has excellent size in their starting lineup, but they have little depth.
The Golden Hurricane only use an eight-man rotation. Justin Hurtt is the top
player on the team, as well as the only senior in the starting lineup. He has
scored in double figures in 49 career games, and he’s a very dangerous player
from the outside.
Scottie Haralson has excellent size for a wing, and he is a transfer from
UConn where he played in 17 games as a freshman in 2008-09. With Steven Idlet
and D.J. Magley on the inside, Tulsa has a lot potential as a rebounding team.
However, with only an eight man playing rotation, playing three games in four
days could be very difficult for Tulsa.
I think Virginia Tech is definitely on the easier side of the bracket. The
Hokies are better than Cal State Northridge, and barring a terrible performance,
they should win that game. Oklahoma State is still feeling their way through the
early parts of their schedule without James Anderson, and DePaul is a bad
On the other side of the bracket, Murray State is a sound team, UNLV is very
good, and Stanford looks much better this year than they did a year ago. Even
Tulsa is capable, thanks to their size.
Virginia Tech should be able to get past Cal State Northridge, and they’ll
likely find themselves facing Oklahoma State in the second round. The Cowboys
have plenty of beef on the inside, and should give the Hokies a good game.
The finals of this tournament will be played on Sunday, and if the Hokies
make it that far, they’ll have to guard against fatigue. Tech doesn’t have much
depth, particularly in the post. Thankfully all teams will take Saturday off
before returning to the court on Sunday.
Whatever happens, the Hokies will get to play three games in Anaheim. That’s
three opportunities to get better before Purdue comes to town on December 1.