W2W4: Alabama vs. Oregon State

Here are three things to watch for when Alabama (2-0) faces Oregon State (2-0), in the first semifinal of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m., and you can watch the game on ESPN2 (and ESPN3).

RISING TIDE: Alabama made the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years last season, in Anthony Grant's third year as coach. Grant hopes to build on that Big Dance berth in 2012-13. The Crimson Tide were picked to finish sixth in the SEC this season in the conference's preseason media poll. They struggled to beat South Dakota State in their season opener, 70-67, and then blew out Division II West Alabama.

Through two games, the team's leading scorer is 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Trevor Lacey, who is averaging 19 points per game (and has made 7 of his 10 3-point attempts).

THE OTHER SIDE: Oregon State was 21-15 last season, 7-11 in the Pac-12. The Beavers didn't make the NCAA tournament, but they did advance to the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational tournament. They were picked to finish eighth in the Pac-12 this season in the conference's preseason media poll. So far, they've beaten Niagra by 19, and New Mexico State by nine.

Through two games, the team's leading scorer is 5-foot-9 junior guard Ahmad Starks, who is averaging 25.5 points per game. Also keep an eye on 6-foot-8 junior forward Devon Collier (7.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg), a Bronx native who played for Bob Hurley at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City.

FIRST FAMILY: President Obama will be visiting New York on Thursday, to view the damage inflicted on the area by Hurricane Sandy. The basketball-loving commander in chief probably won't stick around long enough to catch any hoops -- but his brother-in-law will be there.

Craig Robinson, the big brother of First Lady Michelle Obama, is the coach of Oregon State. Robinson helped out with the President's re-election campaign, but now he's exclusively focused on trying to turn around the Oregon State program. He has a 64-71 record in his first four years at the helm.