Early-season tournaments taking shape

It's that time of year, the time when the non-draft, non-silly-violation news centers on the fields for college basketball's wide array of early-season tournaments. And so it is today.

The first bit of news comes by way of the Gazelle Group, which Wednesday released the four marquee teams (so to speak) in its Legends Classic field. Those four teams are the Texas Longhorns, Vanderbilt Commodores, NC State Wolfpack, and Oregon State Beavers. As is tradition, those four teams will host each of the tournament's four qualifying rounds.

As is tradition, no matter what happens in those rounds, all four teams will advance to the Championship Round at the IZOD Center in New Jersey Nov. 19 and 21. This is a pretty cruddy tradition -- come on, let the little guys advance -- but such is the cold financial nature of early-season tournaments. Oh well.

The other semi-interesting bit of tournament news comes by way of Philadelphia, where the Philly Hoop Group has announced its field for the 2011 Philly Hoop Group Classic Nov. 25 and 26. That field includes Penn, James Madison, La Salle, Robert Morris and Rider. It's not, shall we say, the most star-studded early-season tournament field of all time.

But here comes the twist: Jamie Dixon's Pittsburgh Panthers are also in the tournament, which means they'll get to play at least one game at the historic mecca of old-school East Coast basketball, the Palestra. That's not something Penn or Pitt fans get to see every season, and it's a another fun November scheduling quirk in a year that will bring us college basketball on an aircraft carrier. Fine by me.