When and where: Nov. 25-26 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Semifinal schedule for the Legends Classic:
Nov. 25: Pittsburgh vs. Texas Tech (7:30 p.m., ESPN2); Stanford vs. Houston (9:30, ESPN2)
Nov. 26: Consolation game (7 p.m., ESPN3); Championship game (9:30, ESPNU)
Initial thoughts: Three of these four programs are in a state of flux. Texas Tech is in its first season under Tubby Smith. Houston -- although it won 20 games last season -- is still attempting to work its way back into relevancy. And Pittsburgh is dealing with the loss of four of its top players (Steven Adams, Tray Woodall, Trey Zeigler and J.J. Moore). Stanford appears to be on solid footing, as it returns virtually all of the key pieces from a 2012-13 squad that showed flashes of brilliance but could never develop any consistency. It will be a disappointment if the Cardinal doesn't make the NCAA tournament this season.
Matchup I can’t wait to see: Stanford vs. Houston. Don’t sleep on the Cougars. Even though standout shooting guard Joseph Young transferred to Oregon, Houston is hardly short on talent. TaShawn Thomas is a beast down low and wing Danuel House -- a former top-25 recruit -- should make huge strides as a sophomore. Houston's coaching staff is crossing its fingers that Baylor transfer L.J. Rose, a point guard, will receive a waiver from the NCAA that would allow him to play immediately. It will be interesting to see how the Cougars fare against a veteran Stanford team led by 6-foot-10 forward Dwight Powell and guard Chasson Randle.
Potential matchup I’d like to see: Stanford vs. Texas Tech. I realize a Stanford-Pittsburgh title game may sound a bit more sexy. But the Panthers took such a big hit with offseason departures that I’ll be surprised if Jamie Dixon’s squad is clicking this early in the season. Even though it will be playing for a new coach, Texas Tech returns the majority of a roster that was showing some positive signs toward the end of last season.
Five players to watch:
Jaye Crockett, Texas Tech: Crockett is the leading returning scorer (11.9) and rebounder (6.5) for a Red Raiders squad that went just 11-20 last season. The 6-foot-7 forward shot 49.8 percent from the field. The third-year starter will have to perform even better this season for Texas Tech to take a significant step. Junior Jordan Tolbert is just as big of a threat down low.
Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh: Patterson, who averaged 10 points last season, is the Panthers’ leading returning scorer. The 6-foot-5 small forward attempted nearly half of his shots (111 of 248) from 3-point range. He’ll be the go-to guy on a squad that’s incorporating a lot of new parts.
Dwight Powell, Stanford: Powell averaged 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds last season on a balanced team. The versatile big man has a nice touch on his shot -- he made 80 percent of his free throws -- that allows him to score from almost anywhere. And he possesses a nice arsenal of moves in the paint.
Chasson Randle, Stanford: The guard averaged 13.6 points per game last season but shot just 40 percent from the field and only 36 percent from 3-point range. His shot selection isn’t always the best, but Randle is one of the most dangerous players in the Pac-12 when he’s “on.”
TaShawn Thomas, Houston: The 6-foot-8 forward was one of the most underrated big men in the country in 2012-13. He averaged 16.9 points and 9.8 rebounds and eclipsed the 20-point barrier on 12 occasions. He could do even better as a junior thanks to an improved supporting cast.
Title game prediction: Stanford over Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders will give Tubby Smith his first signature win with a victory over Pittsburgh in the semifinals. But Texas Tech won’t be able to get past a veteran Cardinal club that should be high on chemistry and cohesion. Powell, Randle, Josh Huestis and Aaron Bright will be too much for the Red Raiders.
Who others are picking:
Eamonn Brennan: Pittsburgh over Stanford
Andy Katz: Stanford over Pittsburgh
Myron Medcalf: Pittsburgh over Stanford
Dana O'Neil: Pittsburgh over Stanford