Around this time tomorrow, the Charleston Classic will be tipping off and Penn State will find itself trying to exorcise the demons of disastrous preseason tournaments past. Here's a quick look at the other teams comprising the remainder of the tournament field:
USC (KenPom Rating: 168)
The Trojans are led by second-year head coach Andy Enfield. If the name has you snapping your fingers trying to remember where you might have heard of it before, he's best known as the guy who coached Florida Gulf Coast (aka "Dunk City") to the Sweet 16 in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. He's also married to a supermodel, which makes him a hero to Average Joes all across the country. The actual product on the court however, is still very much a work in progress. Coming off an 11-21 inaugural season in LA, the Trojans dropped their season opener at home to mighty Portland State (KenPom: 243) before dispatching similarly low-rated Tennessee Tech. Jordan McLaughlin is USC's do-everything point guard, leading the team in scoring (17.5 ppg) and assists (6.5 apg) and according to KenPom, sports a gawdy assist rate (ARate) of 49.3%, good enough for 17th overall in KenPom's rankings. Nikola Jovanovic leads the Trojans up front, averaging five rebounds to go with his 6.5 ppg.
Akron (KenPom: 181)
This will be USC's opponent in the first round of the first game of the Charleston Classic. They are already scheduled to play Penn State November 25th at the BJC, but the only way these teams will meet before then will be if they both lose their first two games of the tournament, or if they both win their first two games of the tournament and meet in the finals. The Zips' lone game action thus far consisted of a 74-57 beatdown of UMBC (KenPom: 330). 6'7" forward Demetrius Treadwell is the man to watch for Akron, as he racked up a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds in the win over UMBC.
Drexel (KenPom: 153)
At 0-2, the Dragons are still seeking their first win of the year. Albeit, they have faced a pair of decent teams in Colorado (48) and St. Joseph's (95). Drexel boasts one of the nation's tallest backcourts in 6'6" Damion Lee (17.5 ppg) and 6'7" Tavon Allen (9.5 ppg), both of whom average around double figures scoring. Forward Rodney Williams cleans up well on the boards, averaging seven rebounds per game thus far, and ranking in the Top 300 in KenPom's Defensive Rebounding Percentage (DR%) category at 21.6%. Unfortunately for Drexel, they may have to wait another game to get their first win of the season, because their opening round opponent will be...
Miami (KenPom: 38)
This team is probably the favorite to win the entire tournament, thanks in part to super-transfer point guard Angel Rodriguez and his clutch shooting ability:
Rodriguez averages 20 ppg and ranks in KenPom's Top 500 in Offensive Rating (ORtg) at 119.5% and is in the Top 50 in Steal percentage at an astonishing 6.8%. He is joined by his backcourt mate, Sheldon McCllelan and his 14 ppg and 5.5 rebounds per game. Tonye Jekiri has also proven himself to be a rebounding machine thus far, averaging 9.5 boards per game. This is a team that is also very efficient, ranking 41st in offensive efficiency and 59th in defense efficiency, according to KenPom. If Penn State somehow makes it to the finals, "The U" will very likely be there waiting for them (no, that's YOU who's salivating at the thought of a D.J. Newbill-Angel Rodriguez head-to-head battle).
Charlotte (KenPom: 86)
This will be Penn State's opening round opponent. As we talked about on the podcast earlier this week, it's very difficult to get a read on a team who's lone game was a win over Elon (KenPom: 275). Willie Clayton grabbed ten rebounds and the backcourt of Braxton Ogbueze and Pierria Henry both hit double digits scoring with 12 points each. On paper, this is a very winnable game for PSU but let's remember how unkind preseason tournaments have been to the program in recent years before we pencil them in to the winner's side of the bracket, shall we?
Cornell (KenPom: 291)
At 2-1 with an upset victory at George Mason and win over Colgate, the Big Red have already equalled last season's win total. That's not saying much, of course, and they are likely to get pummeled by South Carolina in their opening round matchup. That being said, keep an eye on Shonn Miller, as the 6'7" forward is averaging a double-double of 20.5 ppg and 11 rpg.
South Carolina (KenPom: 82)
After going 14-18 and 14-20 in his first two season, head coach Frank Martin is trying to turn the corner at USC East. A blowout win over North Florida (KenPom: 254) and a hard-fought four-point loss to Baylor at home, though, may be such indicators of turning said corner. Much like Miami, this is also an efficient team, one that ranks 88th in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Sindarius Thornwell is their main contributor, averaging 11 ppg in his two games played, including 16 against Baylor. If Penn State gets by Charlotte, this South Carolina team will in all likelihood, be their next opponent.