As we head into the Christmas holiday break, the SCGD heads back to Las Vegas the next two days for the Las Vegas Classic. This exempt tournament features two separate brackets of teams playing semifinals today and Third Place/Championship games tomorrow. The “Hosts” bracket features Mississippi State, South Florida, UNLV and Santa Clara. However it is the “Visitors” bracket that is the feature for the next two days here at the SCGD.
The Visitors bracket begins with its semifinals today. At 3:00PM Eastern time, Radford will be taking on Sacred Heart. At 5:30PM, Florida A&M will battle Florida Gulf Coast. The two losers meet in a third place game tomorrow at 2:30, while the winners meet at 5:00PM.
Radford enters this tournament with a record of 6-4. None of their 4 losses have been awful (the worst being to Santa Clara), but on the same token none of their wins have been anything of note either (the best being over North Carolina A&T). The Highlanders do look like they will be able to contend in the Big South’s North Division this season, though the conference’s top two teams (Winthrop and Charleston Southern) are both in the South.
Sacred Heart is 2-10 on the year so far with road wins over Fordham and Hofstra, but 10 losses to mostly mid-major and lower quality teams. The best game the Pioneers have played so far was on November 26 when they forced Boston College to overtime before losing. It appears that this is going to be a long season in Fairfield, CT as the Pioneers will probably be fighting to just qualify for the Northeast Conference tournament.
Florida A&M has had an even worse season so far than Sacred Heart. They stand at 2-9 overall, with only one win over a D1 team, 63-60 at home over Stetson back on November 14. the Rattlers losses include a loss at Jacksonville, a team which is ranked 321 in the KenPoms at the moment. One of the lone advantages that FAMU has over Sacred Heart is the fact that the Rattlers will be in their conference tournament this year. Unlike the NEC that only allows the top 8 of its 10 teams in, all 13 MEAC members are allowed to compete for the automatic bid in March.
Florida Gulf Coast enters the Las Vegas Classic as the favorites to win the Visitors Bracket. While last year’s A-Sun tournament champions and surprise Sweet 16 team is only 5-6 on the year with two of those wins against non-D1 competition, their losses have for the most part been against better competition. Two games back they appeared to have their game at South Florida on its way to triple overtime until a somewhat controversial ruling on a tip-in at the buzzer went against them. While the Eagles have certainly not played at the level that made them everyone’s darling last March (and landed Andy Enfield at USC), there is no reason that this team will not turn things around as it heads into conference play after this tournament.