Women's basketball tournament preview: What to watch at PK80, Cancun, Paradise Jam, and Puerto Rico
Thanksgiving is stacked from top to bottom with women’s basketball tournaments — 42 of them, to be exact.
We took a look at the best ones to get you ready for the barrage of hoops:
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Date: November 25
Breakdown: This "tournament" is on the small side, if you can even call it a tournament. UConn plays Michigan State and Oklahoma plays Oregon in what'll be a pretty solid back-to-back out on the west coast. It doesn't really matter who UConn plays in terms of watchability: if the Huskies are on TV, you should watch them. Their offense is poetry in motion, averaging more than 85 points per game through a 3-0 start, and they'll probably be in the Final Four come March. Do your homework early.
The second game of the day, Oklahoma versus the host team Oregon, is the more enticing of the two, with a pair of Top 25 squads facing off. The Ducks are the favorites here, with Sabrina Ionescu leading the way for the Green and Yellow (you can read more about Ionescu and her affinity for double-doubles here), but don't count the Sooners out: between sharpshooter Gabbi Ortiz and paint-dominator Vionise Pierre-Louis (say that name three times fast), OU boasts an inside-out game capable of running with the best in the country.
Prediction: There isn’t necessarily a “winner,” but it’s safe to guess UConn will be the most impressive team.
Location: Washington, D.C./Melbourne, Florida
Dates: November 23-25
Breakdown: This year's Paradise Jam has eight teams split into two brackets, the Reef Division and the Island Division. The Island Division (Butler, Drexel, West Virginia, Virginia Tech) features a great Mid-Atlantic regional rivalry and the only ranked team in the tournament (the Mountaineers), while the Reef Division (Syracuse, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, George Washington) has four fairly even-matched teams, led by the Orange, which has received AP Top 25 votes this season.
If you only watch one player in this tournament, make it WVU's Teana Muldrow: she's averaging 25.7 points and 11.0 rebounds per game through three outings this year, which... dang.
The only shame: Drexel and Syracuse are on opposite sides of the bracket, meaning the Dragons don't get a shot at upsetting the Orange for the second consecutive season.
Prediction: There aren't actual winners in this one, either, but expect good stuff from Saturday's West Virginia-Virginia Tech showdown.
Play 4 Kay Shootout
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Dates: November 23-25
Breakdown: This year's edition of Play 4 Kay features two current Top 25 teams (Stanford and Ohio State), two teams currently receiving votes (DePaul and Gonzaga), and six – count 'em, six – teams from last year's NCAA tournament (those four, plus Florida Gulf Coast and Belmont.)
So, yeah, there's a lot to like about this field. This tournament is a traditional tournament in that there is a definitive winner by Nov. 25, which is exciting, especially because the field is perfectly seeded. All four teams receiving votes in the AP Top 25 are able to meet up in the semis, meaning a possible No. 9 vs. No. 14 matchup between the Cardinal and the Buckeyes is very much on the table for Saturday. And who knows, maybe DePaul or Gonzaga plays spoiler and pushes their way into the Top 25 by the end of the week.
When (not if, when) you're still stuffed all weekend long, this is the perfect tournament to kick back and enjoy.
Prediction: Stanford needs a boost after losing badly to UConn. Give this one to the Cardinal.
Location: Cancun, Mexico
Dates: Nov. 23-25
Breakdown: This year's Cancun Challenge is stacked, plain and simple. The three best teams in the field are Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Marquette, a trio with depth and talent to match most any preseason tournament in the country.
Mississippi State, of course, took down UConn last year in the Final Four, and the Bulldogs' two best players – Morgan William and Victoria Vivians – returned this year, putting MSU in the Top 10 once again. Marquette retuns a Four Horsewomen-esque roster: all four of Marquette’s double-digit scorers from last season return this year as juniors, and they all play slightly different games. And Tennessee? Let's just say you'll know a whole lot about walking double-doubles Jaime Nared and Mercedes Russell by the end of the weekend.
Thursday's matchup between the Golden Eagles and the Volunteers should be a treat for any basketball fan lucky enough to catch it.
Prediction: Again, there's no technical "winner," but expect big things from Marquette. They're a joy to watch.