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2018 Paradise Jam Tournament preview and predictions - Nov 16, 2018

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by Daniel Benjamin
The 18th Paradise Jam Tournament will get underway in the St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, on Nov. 16. The four-day tournament features eight teams and will be played at the Sports and Fitness Center on the University of the Virgin Islands campus.

The Paradise Jam Tournament consists of both a men's and women's tournament. The men's tournament runs from Nov. 16-19 while the women's event runs between Nov. 22-24. The women's tourney, which began in 2000, is one year older than the men's.

The men's tournament began in 2001 as a six-team, three-day tournament. In 2006, the tournament changed to its current format of eight teams that guarantees each of the participants three games. The teams partake in a predetermined bracket which includes positional games on the final day, including a championship contest.

The Paradise Jam has a strong history of drawing some of the top teams in the nations. The tournament has been able to bring at least three teams from the Power-five and now top-7 basketball conferences since 2006, except for 2012 when only two teams from the top conferences participated. This year's event has three Power-5 conference schools, including No.12/11 Kansas State.

The Wildcats are the ninth-ranked team ever to participate in the tournament. Joining Kansas State is the 2018 event is Eastern Kentucky, Kennesaw State, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Old Dominion, Oregon State as well as Penn.

Over the last 12 years, Power-5/Top-7 conference teams have dominated the competition winning the event 10 times. Old Dominion (2010) and New Mexico (2012) are the only two schools from a non-major conference to win the championship. However, six 'mid-major' teams have reached the championship since 2006.

Colorado is the reigning Paradise Jam Tournament champion. Colorado defeated Mercer 76-70 in the 2017 finals, marking the 11th time in the last dozen years that the margin of the championship has been single-digits.

Teams in the top half of the bracket
The Paradise Jam is divided into two brackets. The top half of the bracket features four teams that will play in the afternoon session on Friday. Oregon State and Old Dominion tip-off the action at 2 p.m. Kennesaw State will face Missouri 30 minutes following the opening game.

Oregon State: The Beavers are 2-0 on the season having defeated UC Riverside (72-59) and Wyoming (83-64). The Beavers returned four of their top five players from a year ago. 6-foot-8 junior forward Tres Tinkle and 6-foot-4 senior guard Stephen Thompson Jr. have picked up where they left off last season. Tinkle and Thompson Jr. were first and second on the team in scoring last season.

Old Dominion: The Monarchs (1-1) have split their first two games for the first time since 2013-14. ODU defeated Navy (67-44) and then fell to St. Joseph's (79-64). Senior guards Ahmad Caver and B.J.Stith are the Monarchs only two returning starters, although they appear to have a little more depth than last year thanks to a couple of transfers.

Kennesaw State: The Owls (1-2) have not won at least two of their first three games to open a season since 2010-11. Kennesaw St. defeated D-III member Oglethorpe (68-57) to earn their first win in a season opener in eight seasons. They then fell to Kansas State (56-41) and Samford (74-60).

Missouri: The Tigers are 1-1 on the season having defeated Central Arkansas (68-55) before losing to Iowa State (76-59). The Tigers, who lost sophomore sensation Johntay Porter for the season with a torn ACL during the preseason, is a very young squad with just two of their top-eight players being upperclassmen.

Teams in the bottom half of the bracket
The bottom of the bracket features the two games that will play during the evening session of the opening day of the tournament. Northern Iowa faces Penn in the first game of the session while Eastern Kentucky and Kansas close out the night.

Northern Iowa: The Panthers (1-1) ran over D-II Bemidji State (97-51) in the season opener, they then fell to UT-Arlington (74-65). UNI is rebuilding this year as the Panthers are returning just two starters. 6-foot-4 Freshman guard A.J. Green is the player to watch.

Penn: The Quakers are 3-0 for the first time since 2015-16 season. Penn opened the season with a come-from-behind victory over the George Mason. The Quakers also have wins over Rice (92-76) and Lafayette (91-61). Penn returns eight letterwinners, including four starters, from a year ago. They currently have three players, led by 6-foot-8 junior AJ Brodeur, averaging double figures in scoring.

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels already have experienced the ups-and-downs of the early going. EKU (2-1) began the season getting spanked by Marshall (105-77) in the opener as the Thundering Hurd made 50 percent of their shots from the field as well as 21 of 32 free throw attempts. They then earned a three-point victory over UT-Chattanooga (81-78) before blowing out NAIA Midway University (107-52).

Kansas State: The Wildcats (2-0) have won their first two games of the season for the fifth straight year. KSU has victories over Kennesaw State (56-41) and Denver (64-45). Barry Brown and Dean Wade lead a veteran squad that expects to challenge for the Big-12 title this year.

Favorites And Under The Radar Teams

Kansas State: The Wildcats will look to become the fifth team ranked in the top-25 to win the Paradise Jam. UConn is the only ranked team to fail to win the tourney chip as the Huskies fell in the 2012 championship game. Kansas State is the unquestioned favorites.

KSU is a veteran squad that relies a lot on its defense. The Wildcats, who ranked 46th in scoring defense and 87th in field goal percentage last season, defends all over the court. They are currently fifth in the nation in scoring defense (48.5 ppg), as well as ranks in the top-60 in field goal makes, field goal percentage and three-point defense.

Offensively, Brown and Wade essentially carry the team. Brown and Wade complement each other very well and both players can do it all on both ends of the floor. Their top-six players are upperclassmen.

Under the Radar
Oregon State: The Beavers are predicted to finish 10th in the Pac-12 as coach Wes Tinkle tries to rebuild the program. OSU is tough defensively well although the Beavers do not force many turnovers. Their problems are on offense.

Tinkle and Thompson can both really stroke the ball and both players can score multiple ways. Tinkle is one of the best players in the Pac-12. If they can get contributions from sophomores Ethan Thompson and Alfred Hollins, the Beavers could reach the finals of the tourney. 7-foot freshman Kylor Kelly is someone to keep an eye on as he is averaging 3.5 blocks a game through the first two games. Also, a good showing in the tournament could give OSU confidence and they possibly could make some noise in the Pac-12.

Old Dominion: ODU is predicted to finish third in Conference USA this year. The Monarchs defend well, particularly the three-point line. However, questions are surrounding ODU's offense.

The Monarchs do have some talent led by the dynamic Caver who is also a pesky defender. Stith is a very talented two-way forward. The Monarchs also added size this offseason in 7-footers Dajour Dickens and Elbert Robinson.

Penn: The Quakers, the defending Ivy League champions, are expected to compete for an NCAA bid once again this year. This year could be different this year, however, as this is a very experienced Penn team that is more talented as well as deeper than last season.

Penn is averaging 85.0 points while shooting 54.3% from the field and 41.2% from beyond the arc. The Quakers rank 89th in the nation in scoring, 16th in field goal percentage, 51st in three-point percentage and 44th in assists. Brodeur leads the team with 17.3 points and 7.0 rebounds. Guards Devon Goodman and Antonio Woods are also producing double-figures in scoring. 6-foot-10 freshman forward Michael Wang leads four other Quakers averaging at least five points a contest.

First Round: Old Dominion over Oregon St.; Missouri over Kennesaw St.; Penn over Northern Iowa; Kansas State over Eastern Kentucky.

Consolation: Oregon State over Kennesaw St.; Northern Iowa over Eastern Kentucky.

Second Round: Old Dominion over Missouri; Kansas St. over Penn.

7th-8th place game: Kennesaw State over Eastern Kentucky.

5th-6th place game: Oregon State over Northern Iowa

3rd-4th place game: Penn over Missouri

Championship Game: Kansas State over Old Dominion.   

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