The Fort Myers Tip-Off features a plethora of teams this year. While some are well-known programs, others will be showing why they deserve some recognition.
- SMU (3-1)
- Virginia (4-0)
- West Virginia (2-1)
- Wisconsin (2-2)
First Round (Monday, Nov. 20)
- Wisconsin vs. Virginia – 6 p.m. (FS1)
- SMU vs. West Virginia – 8:30 p.m. (FS1)
Southern Methodist’s squad last season was less than successful. Playing teams like Houston, Memphis and Cincinnati however, is a tough task no matter who you are. These games, however, weren’t even close. They ended their season with a loss to UCF, a close one, that knocked them out of the American Athletic Conference Tournament. That game hopefully can carry over into this season and get their competitive juices flowing.
SMU has gone 3-1 so far this season, their lone loss against Texas A&M. Their defense has been great, but the offensive end could use some work. Especially beyond the three-point line. The teams in this tournament are experienced and will need a stronger shooting presence in order to compete.
Virginia has a history of choking in March. Last year was no exception. The Cavaliers lost a close one to Furman, making most wonder if Virginia will ever be a prolific postseason team. They did establish themselves as a real threat in the ACC Conference, beating powerhouses like Duke, Clemson, and UNC.
This season, they’ve gone undefeated so far, even squeaking out a close win against Florida. Their guard play is the meat of their offense with names like Reece Beekman, Isaac McKneely and Ryan Dunn averaging around 10 points per game. On paper, they’re the best team in this tournament, but as we’ve seen recently, anything could happen.
The Mountaineers have faced some of the most adversity in college basketball this past offseason. With the resignation of Hall of Fame head coach Bob Huggins, players jumping ship immediately after, and a completely different coaching staff thrust into the spotlight, you have to cut them some slack. Last season’s squad was a decent Big 12 team, but this season was supposed to bring a transfer class that rivaled any other in the country.
West Virginia currently has only nine active players on their roster. The lack of depth has caused every game this season to be an up-and-down roller coaster of lead changes. They will have to preserve any energy in this tournament to even compete with what’s thrown at them. While the guard play has been decent, it’s the inside game they’ll have to worry about.
Last season’s Badgers made little noise throughout the season, but they did manage to pull out some pretty big victories. They defeated Iowa, Marquette, and Penn State in overtime and added victories against Maryland and Michigan to their win column. They failed to advance in the NIT tournament by losing to North Texas but hoped to come back stronger this season.
So far, they are 2-2 this season but their losses aren’t terrible. They lost a close game to the seventh-ranked Tennessee Volunteers and another to Providence. In order to succeed in this tournament, Wisconsin has to come out of the gate ready to play. In their worst loss to date, they were outscored in the first half. When they tried to come back in the second half, it wasn’t enough. If they can play two full halves of basketball, they have a chance to succeed in Florida.
Fort Myers Tip-Off Predictions
First Round: West Virginia vs. SMU
Neither of these teams is a definite winner. They aren’t terrific teams, but each team has something that the other wants. SMU has 15 active guys on their roster. Six more players than WVU has. If WVU had the depth that SMU did, they would be a much better team and could play the style of basketball that they know how to play.
WVU has experience. Only three of their players are freshmen or sophomores. The rest of the team are juniors and grad transfers who have a few years of playing experience under their belts playing for pretty successful programs. At the end of the day, I believe experience will beat depth and WVU will get to live another day.
West Virginia wins
First Round: Wisconsin vs. Virginia
Virginia seems to be the easy winner of this matchup, but Wisconsin has a solid team of scorers. Five of the Badger’s members are averaging double-digit points so far this season. The depth that this team has is insane, and if they are able to play a full game of basketball, they have a real shot of moving onto the championship round.
The Cavaliers have the upper hand on the Badgers coming into this contest though. They are used to being in these positions of intense games week in and week out in the ACC. They’ve also managed to beat every opponent so far, leading me to believe we haven’t seen anything from them yet. Unless Wisconsin can shut down their guards, this looks like a win for the Cavaliers.
Championship Game: Virginia vs. West Virginia
In most cases, I’d argue that Big 12 teams can beat almost anyone. This is a case where the almost applies though. West Virginia has historically played pretty well against big-name opponents, but their current situation makes me wonder if that would still be the case. The depth issue would be so hard to overcome against a team as good as Virginia.
Virginia should be able to go into this match-up and take care of business pretty quickly. Unless the Mountaineers and their star big man Jesse Edwards put on a clinic in the paint. Edwards is one of the best big men in the country and has performed well this season despite the outcome of the game. I still think this is an easy victory for the Cavaliers, but I wouldn’t count out the gold and blue so easily.