Some of Penn State's toughest competition in their non-conference schedule will come in three games over the next four days at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. You can find the tourney's bracket here and more than you could ever want to know on this event's history here. With the event set to tip-off tomorrow, we're focusing on the seven other teams in the field, and their chances to leave San Juan as champions.
#6 North Carolina State Wolfpack
|Coach||Mark Gottfried (2nd year)|
|Last Game||vs. Miami (OH) - W 97-59|
|Preseason Poll||#1 in ACC|
The Wolfpack come into Puerto Rico as the heavy favorite and for good reason. Mark Gottfried turned around the Pack in just one season last year and led them to a surprising Sweet 16 run in March. Now, NC State seems poised to make their claim as the best of Tobacco Road. They return five of their seven players in the rotation last year, including four starters. CJ Leslie was the preseason ACC player of the year while 6'5" point guard Lorenzo Brown seems ready to break out on the national stage. They also brought in three McDonald All-Americans, led by Rodney Purvis, a quality scorer on the wing.
Odds to win PRTO - 3:5
|Coach||Ed Cooley (2nd year)|
|Last Game||vs. Bryant - W 81-49|
|Preseason Poll||#15 in Big East|
Coming into this season, Ed Cooley knew his team was going to be thin, but he's suddenly already down to 6 scholarship players for a myriad of reasons. The latest being a hamstring injury to his star guard Vincent Council that will keep him out for 4-5 weeks. They have some quality players left, but it's hard to fathom this squad pulling off three wins in four days with such a lack of depth. They were hoping to rely on some talented freshmen this year, but Kris Dunn tore his labrum and is out until January while Ricky Ledo was declared ineligible for this season. Cooley is starting to turn that program around, but his recent misfortune will keep the Friars down in this tournament.
Odds to win PRTO - 30:1
|Coach||Derek Kellogg (5th year)|
|Last Game||vs. Harvard - W 67-64|
|Preseason Poll||#5 in Atlantic-10|
UMass brought back a strong core from their NIT team last year, including the little guy Chazz Williams, a 5'9" junior point guard who averaged 17 PPG and 6 APG last season. The all-Atlantic 10 selection is supported by an experienced and athletic frontcourt led by Terrell Vinson, Raphiael Putney, and Cady LaLanne. With virtually everyone back, expectations are high in Amherst, but with Butler and VCU joining the conference, we'll see how they fare in what promises to be an ultra-competitive league race. They just played in ESPN's tip-off marathon on Tuesday meaning the Minutemen will have played 4 games in 6 days at the end of this week.
Odds to win PRTO - 18:1
|Coach||Cuonzo Martin (2nd year)|
|Last Game||vs. Kennesaw St - W 76-67|
|Preseason Poll||#4 in SEC|
The Volunteers come in as the second highest ranked team in this tourney based off everyone's favorite AP poll as they were the only other team to receive votes. Cuonzo Martin, Matt Painter's former assistant, led Tennessee out of the Bruce Pearl era last year by making the NCAA tournament. They seem to be in a great position to do so again this year in a down SEC. They return a beastly frontcourt duo in Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon along with an experience scoring point guard in Trae Golden. For this tournament, however, Tennessee will be without Maymon who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.
Odds to win PRTO - 10:1
UNC Asheville Bulldogs
|Coach||Eddie Biedenbach (17th year)|
|Last Game||at UNC-Wilmington - L 59-67|
|Preseason Poll||#5 in Big South|
You might remember UNC-Asheville from almost pulling the miraculous 16-over-1 upset against Syracuse last March. But while they gave it a good run, that team no longer exists as four of their starters in that game graduated. They did return Jeremy Adkinson who is already averaging 20.5 PPG through his first two games on the year. The Bulldogs seem like they don't belong in this event, but they were a late fill-in for Southern Mississippi when they dropped out.
Odds to win PRTO - 75:1
Oklahoma State Cowboys
|Coach||Travis Ford (5th year)|
|Last Game||vs. UC Davis - W 73-65|
|Preseason Poll||#3 in Big 12|
The Cowboys had a subpar year last season, finishing under .500 for the first time under Travis Ford. But with future NBA talent LeBryan Nash returning and the addition of superstar freshmen Marcus Smart, OkSU is looking towards March once again. They don't have a go-to threat in the post, but with Nash, Smart, and Markel Brown, they're stacked on the wing. The 6'4" Smart will handle the point although he is more of a true combo, but he's already been named to the Naismith Watch list as a true freshmen.
Odds to win PRTO - 10:1
|Coach||Keith Dambrot (9th year)|
|Last Game||vs. John Carroll - W 97-53|
|Preseason Poll||#2 in MAC|
Akron also returns a great deal from their own NIT club last year, including Pittsburgh native Zeke Marshall. The senior 7-footer continues to have a strong career for the Zips. He's still one of the best shot-blockers in the land but has really improved his offensive game. They also have a playmaker at point guard in Alex Abreu and good shooters on the wing. Their balance and experience could carry them to another MAC championship.
Odds to win PRTO - 25:1
UMass over Providence
NC State over PSU
Tennessee over UNC-Asheville
OSU over Akron
NC State over UMass
OSU over Tennessee
PSU over Providence
Akron over UNC-Asheville
NC State over OSU
Tennessee over UMass
PSU over Akron
Providence over UNC-Asheville
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