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Vivid Seats Empire Classic: House of College Hoops Guidebook

The Orange look to right the ship, St. John's in a favorable spot, while 2 mid-major programs prove their worth. Jim Boeheim (below) is unimpressed at the field. PIC: Mark Konezny/USA Today

MTE season is upon us once again! Heading to the Vivid Seats Empire Classic in Brooklyn, making some wagers, or just watching at home? Here's everything you need to know, including analysis, notes, and picks.


The Gritty

Venue: Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY)


Monday, Nov. 21

Syracuse vs. Richmond - 7pm

  • Watch: ESPN2 (Dave O'Brien, Jon Crispin)

  • Line: Syracuse -4.5

  • O/U 139.5

  • SYR ML -170, RICH ML +145

St. John's vs. Temple - 9:30pm

  • Watch: ESPNews (Dave O'Brien, Jon Crispin)

  • Line: St. John's -4

  • O/U 148.5

  • SYR ML -170, RICH ML +145

Tuesday, Nov. 22

Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 - 7pm (Watch on ESPN2)

Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 - 9pm (Watch on ESPN2)


Team Breakdowns


Syracuse Orange (2-1, 0-0 ACC)

  • Wins: Lehigh, Northeastern

  • Losses: Colgate

  • Projected ACC finish (KenPom): 6th

  • Player to Watch: Judah Mintz (Fr.): 18ppg, 58% FG, 30 minutes per game

No, you're not dreaming - Jim Boeheim is back at Syracuse, and in his 47th season at the helm of the Orange (yes, 47), he's got some things to figure out. Syracuse finished 16-17 a season ago, racking up a less-than-ideal 9th in the ACC standings. A few key losses remain inhibitors for 'Cuse this year, like Buddy Boeheim graduating and Cole Swider getting some burn with the Lakers. Now, it'll be up to new faces to determine the fate of Syracuse. Immediately proving himself to be a contributor is freshman Judah Mintz; the four-star recruit from Washington, DC has already racked up 18 points per game and has now demanded attention from opposing defenses. A true scorer, he's proven he can knock it down from anywhere on the floor, while commanding respect as a dribble-drive penetrator. He's a nice piece for veteran Joe Girard and returning sophomore power forward Benny Williams to include in an offense that needs others to step up to find success.

Richmond Spiders (2-2, 0-0 A-10)

  • Wins: VMI, Northern Iowa

  • Losses: Charleston, Wichita State

  • Projected Atlantic 10 finish (KenPom): 3rd

  • Player to Watch: Isaiah Bigelow (Grad): 10.5ppg, 7.5rpg, 94% FT

Richmond surprised A-10 insiders and outsiders alike when they went on a tear and won four straight to take home the conference championship last season. They finished with a solid 24-13 record, so it wasn't ever a doubt they could do it, but rather the quality of the opponents they faced on their way; VCU (who went on an 11-2 run in the 13 games leading up to the tourney), Dayton (who many thought were good enough for an at-large bid anyway), and Davidson (whose 27 wins paced all A-10 teams). If that's not enough, the Spiders took out Big Ten champion Iowa - who many had going all the way - in the first round. But this story isn't about last year; it's about the promise Richmond can once again offer in 2022-23. Tyler Burton (19 PPG) is ripe to continue as the Spiders' leading scorer from downtown and the overall field. Isaiah Bigelow, who transferred after two solid years at Wofford, has emerged as a candidate for impactful minutes as a sixth-man, nearly averaging a double-double already. Sure, Richmond has some questions, but once again their upside is high.

St. John's Red Storm (4-0, 0-0 Big East)

  • Wins: Merrimack, Lafayette, Central Connecticut, Nebraska

  • Projected Big East finish (KenPom): 4th

  • Player to Watch: David Jones (Jr.): 17.8ppg, 8rpg, 39.3% 3PT

It was another middle-of-the-road season for the Johnnies last year, who finished 17-15 overall and bounced by Villanova in the second round of the Big East tournament on their home floor of Madison Square Garden. When the rubber meets the road, can this team compete for a Big East title? It's an unequivocal "yes" from head coach Mike Anderson, who feared not the critics when standout Julian Champagnie & forward Aaron Wheeler left for the NBA. He purged point guard Andre Curbelo from Illinois when he hit the transfer portal this offseason, as well as sharpshooting power forward David Jones from in-conference foe DePaul. This could be one of the best teams compiled in the Mike Anderson era - on paper, at least - and the Empire Classic field is a good test for them early to see how they gel together.


You can check out two-time Beers, Business, and Balls guest Andy Katz's preview with St. John's coach Mike Anderson here.

Temple Owls (2-2)

  • Wins: Villanova, Rutgers

  • Losses: Wagner (OT), Vanderbilt (OT)

  • Projected American finish (KenPom): 6th

  • Player to Watch: Jamille Reynolds (Soph.): 13.3ppg, 7.5rpg, 4 blocks

The curious case of Temple has already emerged as an odd storyline this year. The Owls have two excellent Power Five wins, and two bad overtime losses against teams they should have beat. Temple has always historically competed, but haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since longtime head coach Fran Dunphy left in 2019 - how can they replicate the success in the Aaron McKie era? One thing is for sure - the bet is that Jamille Reynolds, who struggled to find his identity at Central Florida, can help this team. He's already racked up over 13 points per game, giving meaningful minutes to the Owls in high-leverage situations (a-la-31 minutes against Rutgers). Veteran guard Damian Dunn will be called upon quite a bit by McKie this year, as will former Butler guard Khalif Battle & sophomore Zach Hicks.


My picks for Game 1: Richmond vs. Syracuse

  • Richmond +4.5

  • Richmond ML

  • OVER 139.5

  • SYR: Judah Mintz Over 15.5 points (-113)

  • RICH: Tyler Burton Over 16.5 points (-104)

  • If you parlay these picks (exclude Richmond +3.5): +1044 ($10 wins $104.47)


My picks for Game 2: St. John's vs. Temple

  • St. John's -3.5

  • OVER 148.5

  • First half total: Over 70.5 points (-112)

  • First half spread: St. John's -1.5

  • If you parlay these picks: +486 ($10 wins $48.63)


Super-Mega Empire Classic Parlay (combining both Parlays): +5132 ($10 wins $513)


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