Steven Crowl, Wisconsin Badgers, Fort Myers Tip-Off preview

The 2023 Fort Myers Tip-Off has one of the strongest fields of any of the early-season college basketball tournaments.

Dates: Nov. 20 & 22

Where: Fort Myers, Fla.

Teams: SMU, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Field strength: 8/10

2023 Fort Myers Tip-Off Outlook

For just a 4-team event, the Fort Myers Tip-Off has some exceptional teams and no shortage of storylines.

You don’t need to look any further than West Virginia, and the fallout of former head coach Bob Huggins. Huggins, who resigned after a DUI arrest in June, had already been in hot water over comments made on a radio show.

But even without the Huggins drama, West Virginia has still had a very hectic offseason. They were no stranger to utilizing the transfer portal, brining in Jesse Edwards (Syracuse), Kerr Kriisa (Arizona), and Jose Perez (Manhattan), among even more talented pickups. Raequan Battle is awaiting a waiver from the NCAA, and would be another notable name coming to Morgantown. The Mountaineers will be a team to watch all season, and especially in the Fort Myers Tip-Off.

Across the state line is Virginia, who enters a new era. Kihei Clark graduated, which means for the first time since the 2017-18 season, a new full-time point guard will grace the floor in Charlottesville. Like WVU, UVA also worked some wonders in the transfer portal, convincing Merrimack’s’ Jordan Minor and St. Thomas’ Andrew Rohde to pair up with former Georgetown guard Dante Harris and longtime Cav Reece Beekman. Virginia is flying a bit under the radar, but I’m sure that’s just how Tony Bennett likes it.

Also flying under the radar is Wisconsin, who have one of the strongest returning cores in the country. They took the opposite offseason route as West Virginia and Virginia, and instead of going after many transfers, recruited their own players to run it back in Madison. Talk about underrated – the Badgers have a real chance to be a top three team in the Big Ten if their guys make improvements. You can’t understate how important it is to have a team that already knows how to play well together.

Rounding out the field is SMU, who added Chuck Harris from Butler, BJ Edwards from Tennessee, Tyreek Smith from Oklahoma State, and Denver Anglin from Georgetown. Samuell Williamson is back for his fifth year in college basketball, and rounds out an impressive group looking to improve on last year’s 10-22 failure.

2023 Fort Myers Tip-Off Predictions

Wisconsin vs. Virginia (Nov. 20)

If you ask me in February, I might side with Virginia, depending on how well their mid-major superstars adjust to ACC basketball. Wisconsin may not be in the ACC, but they are in the Big Ten and will be a good early challenge for this UVA group. Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl are just two of many experience assets on this Badgers team. If you like low scoring basketball, this game will be a treat for you. Otherwise, just appreciate both teams for what they are. Regardless, Wisconsin has too much chemistry in a November matchup.

West Virginia vs. SMU (Nov. 20)

I don’t think SMU will be nearly as bad as they were last year, and I could see them rising from the bottom of the American to near the top. Rob Lanier didn’t mess around in the offseason and the talent on this Mustangs team is evident. However, West Virginia’s transfer class is in a different stratosphere, especially after their latest addition of Noah Farrakhan. It’s like the Mountaineers are addicted to drawing in good players.

Wisconsin vs. West Virginia (Nov. 22)

In an elite possible title game, both the Badgers and Mountaineers could be ranked. There’s also a lot that could change between Aug. 19. Battle’s waiver either being denied or accepted is the most important. But even more important is coaching, and that’s where I think Greg Gard has a bit of an edge. These games are tough – neutral site games with small crowds and virtually no way to gain momentum. That’s where X’s and O’s fit in and although Josh Eilert could wind up being a great head coach, I’ll give the edge to Gard in this game.

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