As you prepare to gorge yourself with Thanksgiving food, don't forget that you can gobble up a lot of basketball this weekend as well. Most pertinent to Badger fans is the Old Spice Classic that begins tomorrow in Orlando.
Wisconsin is one of eight teams that will compete in this three-game holiday tournament. The rest of the field is good, but not spectacular, so the Badgers should be considered a favorite along with Temple. In fact, Andy Katz predicted a Wisconsin-Georgia final before the season started.
But UW will not succeed with the same level of execution it displayed in its last effort against UNLV. A somewhat sloppy performance probably left a bitter taste for a few Badgers, so playing three games in a short time period gives Wisconsin a great chance to correct the mistakes uncovered during its first defeat.
The Badgers (2-1) tip off against the MAAC host Manhattan Jaspers (2-1) at 1 p.m. CST on Thursday afternoon, with live coverage for all first-round games on ESPN2.
Who could be waiting for the winner? Let's breakdown Thursday's first-round matchups and potential Badger opponents.
Boston College vs. Texas A&M (11 am, ESPN2)
Boston College (2-1) has already lost to Yale this season under new head coach Steve Donahue, but is taking good care of the ball. The Eagles boast the lowest turnover percentage of any team in the nation. Junior guard Reggie Jackson leads the team in scoring, assists, steals and is third on the team in rebounding. Seniors Joe Trapani and Corey Raji were both third-team All-ACC picks a year ago and provide scoring from the forward spots.
Texas A&M (3-0) has played the weakest schedule of the eight teams so far, beating up on Alcorn State, Texas A&M Corpus Cristi and something called Texas A&M International by going about 10 players deep. The Aggies lost the high-usage inside-out duo of seniors Bryan Davis and Donald Sloan from last year's tournament team, but appear to have the horses to reload. Talented sophomore Khris Middleton and junior David Loubeau return as starting forwards, each having excelled down the stretch last season. Nathan Walkup's improvement has been a pleasant surprise so far as the rest of the team has struggled with outside shooting.
Prognosis: Even though a rematch with Donahue would be nice if Wisconsin wanted revenge for the Cornell game, expect Texas A&M move on, providing a NCAA tourney-caliber opponent for Wisconsin in the second round.
Wisconsin vs. Manhattan (1 pm, ESPN2)
Manhattan's winning record is a little surprising given the team's disturbing adjusted efficiency margin. The Jaspers surrender over 1.06 points per possession while only scoring at a rate of .93 themselves. One reason is the offseason loss of troubled scoring guard Rico Pickett. Rather than return for his senior season, Pickett went pro overseas, robbing Manhattan of the one player talented enough to get hot and cause trouble for a team like Wisconsin. Four players log heavy minutes for Manhattan. George Beamon is the team's leading scorer (16.7) and rebounder (9.3) per game at just 6'4", while freshman Michael Alvarado averages 16.3 ppg.
Prognosis: Wisconsin will ultimately out-muscle Manhattan to face the winner of the BC-A&M matchup.
Georgia vs. Notre Dame (6 pm, ESPN2)
Georgia (3-0) highlights the bottom half of the bracket, featuring a solid mix of experience at key positions. Junior forward Trey Thompkins, the preseason SEC player of the year, has still not played a game this season due to a right ankle injury. Thompkins is not likely to play in the tournament. Luckily the junior class is still loaded. Jeremy Price (6'8") has picked up the slack down low. Versatile and athletic shooting guard Travis Leslie leads the Bulldogs in scoring (18 ppg), while point guard Dustin Ware is a leader in the Jordan Taylor-mold. Eleven of Georgia's 13 players were homegrown in the Peach State.
Even without Luke Harangody gone, Notre Dame (4-0) continues to sparkle offensively, putting up over 92 ppg against typical non-league fare. The Irish start five seniors and are strong on the perimeter, led by Psycho-T's younger brother Ben Hansbrough. While Hansbrough is the playmaker, Tim Abromaitis seems to have regained his form as the three-point specialist. You cannot leave former Purdue transfer Scott Martin open either. The midwest connections don't stop there. Wisconsin recruited bruising sophomore forward Jack Cooley briefly and Mike Broghammer hails from Orono, Min. like Jon Leuer.
Prognosis: Should be a fun game to watch, with Georgia's athleticism going against Mike Brey's fast-paced style. Since Georgia has been torched from long-distance before, the Bulldogs could be in for a long night. I'll call the "upset" here.
Temple vs. California (8 pm, ESPN2)
Temple (2-0) is the only ranked team in the field, moving up to No. 20 in the AP poll and No. 21 in the coaches poll. Defensively, the Owls are even more efficient than the Badgers. If you want to talk star power, 6'9" forward Lavoy Allen averaged a double-double as a junior prior to being named to the Naismith Award watch list this fall. Allen is looking to shrug off a relatively slow start. He will be supported by 6'11" shot blocker Michael Eric in the middle. Juan Fernandez returns to the backcourt, where Temple's youthful bench from last season is a year older and ready to make an impact.
California (2-0) probably owns the most impressive victory among the invitees thanks to its 25-point shelling of New Mexico last Saturday. Defensive standout Jorge Gutierrez is leading the team in scoring (19 ppg) at guard through two games, with fellow junior Harper Kamp right behind him (18.5). Kamp redshirted last season due to lingering knee problems, but has emerged as a reliable scorer and rebounder inside. Gary Franklin is a big-time talent who is playing as well as any freshman in the Pac-10.
Prognosis: It's tough to pick against the Owls here. Temple's defense should slow down the Bears just enough to advance.
With a win on Thanksgiving, Wisconsin would next play on ESPN at 11 a.m. Friday. If all goes well, you can mark your calendars for the championship game on Sunday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. Most other games are being televised on ESPNU.
And if you are still not satisfied by Badger hoops alone, check out the other Big Ten schools in holiday tournament action.