Interesting clash here, considering the Gophers are almost totally perimeter based right now thanks to the graduation of Mbakwe and Rodney Williams, while the Orange lost Brandon Triche, Michael Carter-Williams, and James Southerland and will be more reliant on inside play than ever with nearly every impact returnee an inside (or wing at best) player. Of course, this being Jim Boeheim and Syracuse and they don't rebuild they just reload, they are bringing in ESPN's #5 point guard (#20 overall) in the country in Tyler Ennis as well as a couple forwards in the Top 100, which means the Cuse will have a huge size advantage over Minnesota but will be relying on a freshman point guard against a veteran laden opposing backcourt as well.
Speaking of point guards and dealing with some difficulties, the Gopher guards will have to contend with Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone. The good news is Coach Pitino has experience in game planning for it from his days with Louisville. The bad news is Syracuse's zone will likely be made up of Ennis and four guys who are at least 6-8 with wing spans that could probably cover the entire court end-to end. The other good news, is without the guys who left Syracuse has almost no 3-point shooting unless one of the incoming freshmen is a marksman. The other bad news, is I'm terrified of the Gopher guards going up against this zone, but that's from years of scarring after watching Monson and Tubby coached teams go up against zone defenses and collectively lose their shit. Things should be different with Pitino at the helm. Could be different. Hopefully. Please please please be different.
Anyway, this is a pretty sweet draw, and then in round two they will face either Arkansas or Cal, depending on win/lose. I'm too tired to look it up, but I'm pretty sure Arkansas still sucks and Cal is a fringe NCAA team, so Cal would be the much better match-up but the Gophers would have to beat Cuse to get to them most likely. Right now I'm not sure I see that happening, but hey, hooray for optimism. Looking forward to it.
Elsewhere, brackets for a bunch of the other tournaments were announced as well. Of note:
OLD SPICE CLASSIC (Big Ten rep: PURDUE): The Boilers caught a rough draw in the first round in National Champion contender Oklahoma State (you heard it here first), especially much of the rest of this tournament is blah at best. Outside of Memphis (and OK St) the best team might be LSU (who is supposed to be better this year) and that's an ugly tournament. The good news for the Boilers is they should be able to run right through the loser's bracket to end up going 2-1.
VEGAS INVITATIONAL (Big Ten rep: NORTHWESTERN): It's not a tournament because the matchups are already set between four teams (Northwestern, UCLA, Missouri, and Nevada) with UCLA and Missouri each playing Northwestern and Nevada. Because we aren't getting that UCLA vs. Missouri match-up this is a super boring
PUERTO RICO TIP-OFF (Big Ten rep: MICHIGAN): Assuming the Wolverines can get past Long Beach, and they should, and VCU can get past FSU, and they should thank you very much Andrew Wiggins, that's a heck of a second round match-up. After Michigan blew up everyone's bracket in dramatic fashion by blowing the doors off VCU last year, I'm interested to see how they handle havoc without either Burke or Hardaway. Georgetown should come out the other side, now that Bruce Weber has another year under his belt at Kansas State and should begin dismantling everything Bob Huggins and Frank Martin built.
LEGENDS CLASSIC: No Big Ten rep in this one, but notable because of Texas Tech and Tubby Smith's appearance. The Red Raiders actually may be able to win their semifinal match-up (there are only 4 teams) against Pitt since the Panthers lost a ton off last year's team, but then they can expect to get their doors blown off by either Stanford or Houston. Neither team is great, but Texas Tech is significantly worse than either. Then again, Tubby has shown an aptitude for getting the most out of his teams in these early tournaments, so maybe his magic will work again. Just watch out for February.
WOODEN LEGACY: This is kind of a crappy tournament with teams like Fullerton and George Washington involved (and on the same side of the bracket for some reason) but there's probably enough intrigue to make this interesting considering how much people want to make sex to Doug McDermott of Creighton. I'm most interested in seeing if Maurice Creek (transferred to GW) can make an impact or if those knees are 100% shot.
There's other tournaments too but they're mostly boring and holy crap did I ever just run out of steam. Go to ESPN or whatever. I'm done here.