MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – (November 23, 2020) — As we approach Wednesday’s date of the first round of the Crossover Classic, we take a look at potential championship matchups if WVU makes it to the title game.
Originally West Virginia’s first round matchups, the Panthers from Northern Iowa were placed in this tournament to replace Texas A&M.
The Panthers are coached by Ben Jacobson, who is most notably remembered for upsetting Texas in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament with a half-court shot.
In that same tournament, the Panthers should’ve took down Texas A&M as well but blew a historic lead with seconds remaining.
The Missouri Valley Conference member is looking to get back into the NCAA Tournament this season with a young roster returning.
UNI’s best player by far last season was AJ Green. Green is a junior this year and averaged 19.7 points with the Panthers as a sophomore.
Northern Iowa also returns Trae Berhow and Austin Phyfe, who are also each averaging double-digits in points per game.
UNI will have to beat Western Kentucky on Wednesday in order to play the winner of St. Mary’s and Memphis.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were the most recent team that joined the field in South Dakota after replacing Creighton on Friday night.
Coached by long-time Mississippi State coach, Rick Stansbury, the Hilltoppers are looking to be at the top of the Conference USA standings after a decent season last year.
WKU went 20-10 and finished second in Conference USA. Their best win was an overtime win over Arkansas.
Stansbury lost a couple of notable seniors from graduation, but still brings back promising underclassmen.
Charles Bassey is one of the great recruits that Stansbury is able to convince to come to WKU. The five-star recruit averaged 15.3 points and 9.2 rebounds before getting hurt in December.
WKU also brings back their leading scorer, Taveion Hollingsworth. The guard averaged 16.6 points per game for Western Kentucky.
Western Kentucky and Northern Iowa will make an interesting first round matchup for Wednesday afternoon.
Saint Mary’s enters the Crossover Classic after replacing Ohio State a couple of weeks ago.
The Gaels have always been a consistent NCAA Tournament team under the helm of Randy Bennett. Bennett turned the program around when he took over in 2001 and has appeared in the tournament seven times so far.
Last season, the Gaels defeated Wisconsin (ironically in the same arena they will be playing this week), Utah State, and Arizona State.
Saint Mary’s lost Jordan Ford, Malik Fitts and Tanner Krebs, which was a good amount of their scoring last year.
Players like Dan Fotu, Tommy Kuhse and Matthias Tass will have to step up for Saint Mary’s as they look to stay as the winning program that they usually are.
Saint Mary’s will play Memphis on Wednesday afternoon in an attempt to get the winner of UNI and WKU.
The Memphis Tigers are one of the three remaining teams from the original Battle 4 Atlantis field.
Memphis would be WVU’s best opponent that is left in this tournament if you want to look at it from a Strength of Schedule perspective.
Penny Hardaway is entering his third season coaching his alma mater. Last season was a very hyped up year for the Tigers, as they brought in the best recruiting class in the country.
The Tigers went 21-10 and finished fifth in the American after losing No. 2-NBA draft pick James Wiseman.
Memphis enters this season losing Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa, another first-round draft pick this year.
Despite those losses, the Tigers return 59 percent of their scoring from last season as they still have a young roster under Hardaway.
Memphis does bring in a five-star recruit in Moussa Cisse and one of the best transfer players in the country in Landers Nolley II.
Nolley comes from Virginia Tech and was granted immediate eligibility.
Hardaway also returns notable players like Lester Quinones, Boogie Ellis and D.J. Jeffries.
A lot needs to happen for West Virginia and Memphis to matchup in the finals of the Crossover Classic, but it would be the best-case scenarios for both programs.