NEW YORK CITY – In a city known for its rich basketball tradition on the asphalt courts that abound on nearly every street corner, college basketball takes center stage once again with the annual Jimmy V Classic.
The event is scheduled for Dec. 7 at Madison Square Garden and will feature four teams which have combined for a 23-7 record so far this season.
Tennessee takes on Texas Tech at 7 p.m. while Syracuse tangles with Villanova in the nightcap. That game is scheduled to get underway at approximately 9 p.m.
In a school known more for its rich tradition in football, Tennessee is restoring some of the shine as a basketball program under the leadership of Rick Barnes, who is in his seventh season in Knoxville.
The longtime college coach has the Volunteers off to a 6-1 record so far this season after his team downed Colorado 69-54 on Dec. 4 before heading to New York for this year’s Jimmy V Classic.
Barnes, who is in his 31st season as a college coach, owns a 733-387 (.654) career record after the recent win over the Buffaloes. He previously coached at Texas (1998-2015) before taking over at Tennessee. He has also coached at Clemson (1994-98) and Providence (1988-94) after beginning his career at George Mason (1987-88).
Barnes, who has always favored a high-tempo offense and tough defense, has Tennessee adhering to that approach. The Vols are averaging 80.1 points per game through the first seven games of the season and limiting the opposition to just 60 points per game.
The Volunteers are being led this season by a trio of guards, including two who are scoring in double digits on the young season. Kennedy Chandler (6-0, 171, Fr.) and Santiago Vescovi (6-3, 197, Jr., G) are the top two scorers on the team and are two of just three players to start each of the team’s seven games this season.
Chandler is connecting at a 52 percent clip (46-88) from the floor, including 11 of 26 (.423) from behind the arc and has made 10 of his 12 free throw attempts this season and comes into the game against Texas Tech with a 16.1 points per game scoring average. Vescovi, meanwhile, is averaging 15.1 points per game for the Volunteers. He has made 37 of his 81 attempts from the floor and has already made 21 3-pointers (21-54) on the season and is also a solid shooter from the foul line as is evident by his 11-14 (.786) foul shooting.
The tandem of Chandler and Vescovi are the only two Tennessee players in double figures, but three others are not far behind.
Justin Powell (6-6, 197, So.) ranks third on the team in scoring with 9.5 points per contest. He has played in six games (one start) and has connected on 21 of 43 (.488) shots from the floor, including 12 of 26 (.462) from behind the arc.
Teammates Olivier Nkamhoua (6-8, 232, Jr.) and John Fulkerson (6-9, 219, Grad.), a pair of forwards, are also having solid starts to the 2021-22 season. Nkamhoua is averaging 9.1 points per game heading into the game against the Red Raiders, while Fulkerson is scoring 8.5 points per game so far on the year. The big guys are also the top two rebounders for the Volunteers. Nkamhoua leads the way with 6.6 rebounds per game and Fulkerson is pulling down six rebounds per game.
Tennessee (0-0 SEC/6-1 Overall)
W-UT MARTIN 90-62
W-EAST TENNESSEE 94-62
Hall of Fame Tip-Off at Uncasville, Conn.
L-vs. Villanova 71-53
W-vs. North Carolina 89-72
W-TENNESSEE TECH 80-69
W-at Colorado 69-54
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
Like Tennessee, Texas Tech likes to run the floor and put up points at a furious pace.
And, wow, are the Red Raiders successful at doing just that under first-year coach Mark Adams. The former assistant coach at the school was elevated to the head coaching position in April and became the 18th head coach of the Red Raider program. He led Howard College to the NJCAA national championship in 2010.
Texas Tech has five players already averaging in double figures for a team that in averaging 85.4 points per game through the seven games already played this season. The Red Raiders scored at least 84 points in each of their first six games this season before being limited to just 68 points in a narrow four-point setback to Providence in their last outing. The Tech defense is holding the opposition to just 59.4 points per game so far this season.
Terrance Shannon (6-6, 215, Jr., G) leads the Red Raiders in scoring this season despite playing in just four of his team’s seven games. He has connected on 22 of 45 (.489) of his field goal attempts and is 11 of 25 (.440) from long range. He has also made good on 11 of 14 (.846) free throw attempts to account for his team-best 16.5 points per game.
Kevin McCullar (6-6, 210, RS-Jr.), another guard, and Bryson Williams (6-8, 240, Grad., F) are scoring at clips of 14.2 and 13.0 points per game, respectively, for the Red Raiders. McCullar is shooting 48 percent (24-50) from the floor, including hitting on eight of 22 treys, and is 15 of 25 (.600) from the foul line to account for his scoring output. Williams is the most accurate field goal shooter on the team through the first seven games this season. He has connected on 37 of 63 (.587) field goal attempts and is 14 of 19 (.737) from the free throw lines.
Williams is also leading the team in rebounding with 39 (16 offensive) caroms for and average of 5.8 boards and McCullar is not far behind. He has grabbed 29 (20 offensive) rebounds and enters the game against Tennessee with 5.6 rebounds per game.
Two other players are also contributing in a big way on the offensive end for the Red Raiders. Davion Warren (6-6, 205, Grad., G) and Kevin Obanor (6-8, 235, Sr.), a forward, join Williams as the only players to start all seven games so far this season. Warren is shooting 57 percent (30-53) from the floor and is 18 of 21 (.857) from the line and brings a scoring average of 12.1 points to New York City. Obanor, meanwhile, is averaging 10.6 points per outing. He has connected on 25 of 58 (.431) field goals attempts, including 14 of 32 (.438) from 3-point range, and is 10 of 12 (.833) from the free throw stripe.
Texas Tech (0-0 Big 12/6-1 Overall)
W-NORTH FLORIDA 89-74
W-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M 84-49
W-vs. Incarnate Word 84-62 (at South Padre Island, Texas)
Big 12/Big East Battle
L-at Providence 72-68
Jim Boeheim has been a constant on the college basketball landscape since becoming the coach at Syracuse in 1976. Now, more than 40 years later, the Hall of Fame mentor continues to add to history victory total. The five wins by Syracuse this season has him nearing 1,000 official wins in his legendary tenure at the school. He currently sits at 987 wins and trails only Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) on that list of Division-1 coaching victories.
He has led Syracuse into the NCAA tournament in all but three of his previous 44 seasons at the school. The Orange have appeared in five Final Fours during his tenure at the school and his 2002-03 squad capped the season with an NCAA championship.
This year, Syracuse is off to a 5-3 season on the season, but come into New York City on a two-game winning streak. The Orange outlasted Indiana 112-110 in overtime in the recent ACC-Big Ten Challenge and opened Atlantic Coast Conference play with a narrow 63-60 win on the road at Florida State.
Buddy Boeheim (6-6, 205, Sr., G) leads his father’s team in scoring. He has made 50 of 125 (.400) shots from the floor, including 15 of 57 from behind the arc, and is 37 of 41 (.902) from the foul line to account for his team-best 19.1 points per game.
Joseph Girard (6-1, 190, Jr., G) and Boeheim’s brother, Jimmy Boeheim, (6-8, 225, Grad., F) are also averaging in double figures with 15.1 and 14.1 points per game, respectively. Girard has connected on 37 of 81 (.457) field goal attempts, which includes 26 of 51 (.529) from behind the arc. He has also been successful on all but two of his 22 foul shots to rank second on the team in scoring. Jimmy Boeheim, meanwhile, is shooting 47 percent (42-90) from the floor, including 11 of 25 (.440) from 3-point range, and is 18 of 27 (.667) from the foul line. His 6.1 rebounds per game are tied for second on the team heading into the game against the Wildcats.
Cole Swider (6-9, 220, Sr., F) and center Jesse Edwards (6-11, 230, Jr.,) give the Orange two more double-digit scorers this season. Swider’s 13.1 points per game have come as the result of being good on 35 of 90 (.389) shots from the floor (14 3-pointers) and connecting on 21 of 23 (.913) free throw attempts. Swider tops the team with 6.9 rebounds per contest so far this season.
Edwards, who has yet to attempt a shot from behind the arc this season, has made 40 of 52 (.769) field goal attempts and is equally effective from the foul line where his has made 19 of 25 (.760) to arrive at his 12.4 points per game. He is tied with Jimmy Boeheim with 6.1 rebounds per outing.
Syracuse (1-0 ACC/5-3 Overall)
Battle 4 Atlantis at Paradise Island, Bahamas
L-vs. VCU 67-55
W-vs. Arizona State 92-84
L-vs. Auburn 89-68
ACC/BIG TEN CHALLENGE
W-INDIANA 112-110 (2-OT)
W-at Florida State 63-60
Few schools in the nation have sustained the level of success that Villanova has over the past years. Now, the Wildcats get a chance to put that success on full display when they tangle with Syracuse in the nightcap of the Jimmy V Classic inside the world’s most famous arena.
Popular coach Jay Wright has led his teams to an average of 29 victories over the past eight seasons, including a school-record 36 wins in 2017-18 on the way to winning the national championship. It was the school’s second national crown under Wright’s leadership as they won it all two years earlier.
And while the new season is still in its infancy, it appears the Wildcats have all the makings of challenge for a return to the Final Four and perhaps a third national title under Wright’s tutelage.
Wright, who is in his 21st season at Villanova, is just four wins shy of reaching 500 victories (496-191) during his tenure at the school. He spent seven seasons leading the program at Hofstra (1994-01) and was 122-85 (.589) during his time at the school. Wright also served as an assistant at Villanova (1987-92) under legendary coach Rollie Massimino.
Three of the five players who have started all eight games this season are all averaging more than 10 points per game in scoring and a trio of players who have been proficient at controlling the boards this season. And four of the five starters are in their final year of eligibility and that experience could prove crucial come tournament time when the stakes are at their high
Colin Gillespie (6-3, 195, Grad., G) tops the squad with an average of 17.8 points per game through the first eight contests this season. He has connected on 44 of his 96 (.458) shots from the floor and has drained 30 of 64 (469) shots from beyond the arc while converting 24 of 28 (.857) from the foul line. Gillespie has also handed out a team-best 28 assists already this season.
Justin Moore (6-4, 210, Jr., G) ranks second on the team behind Gillespie in scoring. He is shooting 42 percent (45-107) from the floor, including 18 of 45 (.406) from long range, and has added 15 of 23 (.826) foul shooting that has yielded him 15.4 points per game. His 5.4 rebounds per outing is the third-best on the Villanova team this season. He is joined by Brandon Slater (6-7, 220, Sr., F) who is scoring at a 14.0 points per game clip after converting 39 of his 64 (.609) field goal attempts, which includes 15 of 32 (.469). He has also netted 19 of 23 (.826) from the free throw line.
The fourth player averaging in double figures this season for the Wildcats is Jermaine Samuels (6-7, 230, Grad., F), who is averaging 11.9 points per game. He is shooting 52 percent (34-66) from the floor. That total includes shooting 10 of 27 (.370) from behind the arc and being 19 of 23 (.826) from the charity stripe. Samuels also ranks second on the squad with 5.8 rebounds per game.
Eric Dixon (6-8, 255, RS-So., F) is the fifth starter. While Dixon may not have reached double figures in scoring as f yet, he is making up for it in rebounding. He leads the Wildcats with 5.9 caroms per contest to go along with the 7.9 points per game he is contributing to a squad that is averaging 79.6 points per game. The Villanova defense is limiting the opposition to just 61.1 points.
Villanova (0-0 Big East/6-2 Overall)
W-MOUNT ST. MARY’S 91-51
L-at UCLA 86-77 (OT)
Hall of Fame Tip-Off At Uncasville, Conn.
W-vs. Tennessee 71-53
L-vs. Purdue 80-74
W-at La Salle 72-46
W-at Penn 71-56
W-SAINT JOSEPH’S 81-52
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.