UCF Fastbreak - Nov. 17

Nov. 17, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Last year's Old Spice Classic field included five squads that went on to postseason play. From the look of the field for this season's event, that number could grow.

Three of the eight-teams in the tournament, which begins on Thursday, are currently in the national rankings. UCF opens the event at Disney's Wide World of Sports in nearby Lake Buena Vista on Thanksgiving against No. 23 Villanova.

The following day, head coach Kirk Speraw's squad will play 22nd-ranked Kansas State or George Mason, a team that is receiving votes in both national polls.

No. 21 NC State is also participating in the event, which will conclude with games on Sunday, Nov. 25.

Speraw contends that the event will be one of the tougher tournaments in the country this year.

"The Old Spice Classic features some of the country's top teams. Each game is going to be a challenge four our team," he said. "Villanova has one of the best backcourts in the country, so to open the tournament with them is not going to be easy."

Penn State, Rider and South Carolina are also in the tournament field.

Villanova went 22-11 last year and competed in the NCAA Tournament. Guard Scottie Reynolds, the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year in 2006-07, was named to the preseason all-conference team.

Last year, Kansas State played in the postseason National Invitation Tournament. The Wildcats feature two of the top players in the country - Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. Beasley, a power forward, scored 32 points and grabbed a Big 12-record 24 rebounds in Kansas State's season-opening victory over Sacramento State.

George Mason, best known for its appearance in the 2006 Final Four, was tabbed first in the preseason Colonial Athletic Association poll. The Patriots return five starters and 92 percent of their scoring from last season's 18-win squad.

NC State, a postseason NIT team in 2007, is led by forward Brandon Costner. He averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds and is a candidate for the 2007-08 Wooden Award, which is presented to the nation's top player.

Penn State features guard/forward Geary Claxton, a preseason All-Big 10 selection. He averaged 16.3 points and eight rebounds last year.

South Carolina is expected to be one of the more improved teams in the Southeastern Conference this year, following the arrival of transfer guard Devan Downey. The sophomore averaged 12.3 points and 4.3 assists at Cincinnati two years ago.

Rider has an All-America candidate in forward Jason Thompson. The senior was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year last month after averaging 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds in 2006-07. In its final game before the tournament, UCF topped Norfolk State, 78-64, at the new UCF Arena on Friday.

Tickets for the Old Spice Classic are available at all Ticketmaster outlets.

Season tickets for UCF home games are available by calling 407-UCF-1000. Single-game tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets and at the UCF box office at Bright House Networks Stadium.

For the latest news and information on the Knights, tickets or apparel, log on to www.ucfathletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. Also check out www.ucfphotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.

Notes: UCF senior guard Mike O'Donnell played at NC State as a freshman in 2003-04 before transferring. He played in 30 games for the Wolfpack, making seven starts... Each game at the tournament will be televised live nationally on ESPN2 or ESPNU... UCF-Villanova will be televised on ESPN2.