SEC Feast Week Preview: Part I

Posted by David Changas on November 21st, 2016

With one of the best weeks of the college basketball season now upon us, we offer Part I of our preview of what’s ahead for SEC teams headed to the various holiday tournaments around the country. This post will focus on the events beginning today and Tuesday.

Rick Barnes and Tennessee have a tough road ahead in Maui… and beyond. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

  • Maui Jim Maui Invitational (Lahaina, HI) – Tennessee. The Volunteers’ season got off to a rough start with a home loss to Chattanooga on opening night, but they now sit at 1-1 after an easy subsequent win over lowly Appalachian State. In Maui, however, Tennessee will get started with a bite than may be bigger than Rick Barnes’ squad can chew. The Vols open with a savvy, veteran Wisconsin team that is likely to give its offense fits. The Vols’ second game of the tournament on Tuesday will either be against a top-10 Oregon team that could have preseason All-American Dillon Brooks back in action, or a Georgetown team that will be desperate after a couple of early losses. There is a strong likelihood that the Vols will drop their first two games, with their only realistic chance for a win on the islands coming against non-Division I host Chaminade on Wednesday.

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part II Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 21st, 2016

morning5_ACCNote: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings.

  1. Maui Invitational: North Carolina (#5) will be the favorite in the Maui Invitational, the marquee event of this season’s Feast Week. The Tar Heels will face host Chaminade in tonight’s opening round (ESPN2 – 11:30 PM) and followed by either Oklahoma State (#61) or Connecticut (#67) in Tuesday’s semifinals. With that draw, North Carolina should easily advance into Wednesday’s championship game (ESPN2 – 9:30 PM). Oregon (#9) and Wisconsin (#10) — two other top 10 teams — are on the other half of the bracket. North Carolina will look to add to its past success in this event, having won three previous titles in Lahaina in 1999, 2004 and 2008. Roy Williams’ team started its trip to the Hawaiian Islands late last week with an 83-68 win at Hawaii on Friday night.
  2. Legends Classic: The Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be the site of the next two ACC Tournaments so it is no coincidence that the facility is hosting four early season events that feature ACC schools this season. The Legends Classic is the first of those events, with Notre Dame (#33) joining a competitive four-team field. The Irish will meet Colorado (#51) tonight (ESPN2 – 7:00 PM), followed by Texas (#47) taking on Northwestern (#60). The winners will play in Tuesday night’s championship game (ESPN2 – 6:00 PM). With these four teams so evenly matched, expect Notre Dame to compete in two close games with a chance to pick up a pair of quality wins.
  3. Global Sports Shootout: Georgia Tech (#106) is one of two ACC schools that chose not to play in a traditional winners-advance tournament. Instead, the Yellow Jackets’ exempt event — the Global Sports Shootout — consists of four separate home games against mid-level competition. The last of those games will take place on Tuesday night (ACCN – 7:30 PM) when Georgia Tech hosts Sam Houston State (#148). Josh Pastner‘s team is 2-1 in these games after dropping Friday night’s contest to Ohio (#84), but the Jackets handily defeated Tennessee Tech (#268) and Southern (#271). Junior center Ben Lammers has been a standout so far, averaging 16.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and an impressive 6.0 blocks per game.
  4. Battle 4 Atlantis: This will be Louisville‘s (#7) second appearance in the Battle 4 Atlantis event. In November 2012 the Cardinals lost to Duke in the finals of this event, although Rick Pitino‘s squad got its revenge in the Elite Eight by beating the Blue Devils handily on its way to the National Championship. As usual the Bahamas will host a highly competitive field, with all eight teams ranked among the top third of college basketball (per KenPom). Louisville faces the lowest-rated team in its opener against Old Dominion (#108) on Wednesday night (AXS – 9:30 PM). On Thanksgiving Day, the Cardinals will take on the winner of Wichita State (#23) and LSU (#87). On the other side of the bracket, Michigan State (#21), Baylor (#22) and VCU (#34) are all capable of making it to Friday afternoon’s championship game (ESPN/ESPN2 – 3:30 PM).
  5. NIT Season Tip-Off: Another ACC team will be playing in Brooklyn this week, as Florida State (#36) also ventures to the Barclays Center for the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Seminoles will battle Temple (#115) on Thanksgiving Day (ESPNU – 12:30 PM), and if they win that game, they will probably get a shot at West Virginia (#18) in Friday’s championship (ESPN2 – 3:00 PM). Two wins in Brooklyn would be huge for Leonard Hamilton‘s squad, as Florida State needs some impressive victories to put on its pre-conference resume. The Seminoles have not done so well in the non-conference phase of its schedule the last few years, so this represents a great opportunity to change that trend.
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Despite Loss, Vanderbilt Can Learn From Maui Experience

Posted by David Changas on November 27th, 2015

After thrashing St. John’s and Wake Forest in its first two games at this week’s Maui Invitational, Vanderbilt was not able to finish the deal against #5 Kansas in the championship game, falling 70-63. The #19 Commodores, a team that generally has no problem scoring but is somewhat prone to struggling on the defensive end, held the Jayhawks in check for the first half, leading 30-26 at the break. However, defensive shortcomings allowed Kansas to ride a 62.5 percent shooting second half en route to the school’s second championship in Maui. The Commodores helped things along with a woeful 6-of-27 (22.2%) performance from three-point range, and there was no way Kevin Stallings’ team was going to leave the islands with a trophy without a better offensive performance.

Damian Jones and Vanderbilt can take a lot of good from Maui (Bosley Jarrett/Vanderbilt Hustler).

Damian Jones and Vanderbilt can take a lot of good from Maui. (Bosley Jarrett/Vanderbilt Hustler)

Despite the disappointment of not becoming the first SEC team to win the Maui Invitational since 1993 (Kentucky), Vanderbilt’s loss to Kansas should provide Stallings some valuable lessons as the season progresses. First of all, it is highly unlikely that the Commodores will again be so futile on the offensive end. The Commodores came into the game shooting over 42 percent from beyond the arc, so it’s doubtful that one cold shooting performance signals a long-term problem. Where the Vanderbilt coach should be concerned, however, is on the defensive end. The Commodores allowed Kansas guard Wayne Selden, Jr., to completely go off on them, as the junior guard matched his career high with 25 points and almost single-handedly kept the Jayhawks in the game in the first half. Fellow guard Devonte’ Graham scored 12 points of his own as the two Jayhawks’ guards combined to go 7-of-11 from deep. Read the rest of this entry »

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Feast Week Previews: Maui, Legends, CBE & Cancun Tourneys

Posted by Andrew Gripshover on November 23rd, 2015

There are talented tournament fields everywhere this Feast Week. The Gulf Coast Showcase has a relatively strong mid-major field headlined by Murray State, Duquesne (which absolutely BLASTED Penn State on Friday) and Texas Southern. Four capable teams — Clemson, UMass (already a winner over Harvard), Creighton and Rutgers — will tussle in another four-team field in Vegas. Looking further ahead, Atlantis tips off on Wednesday before a handful of other events kick off on Thanksgiving Day and beyond. As we did with Puerto Rico and Charleston last week, here’s a look at the event favorite, a dark horse, and the teams who have the most on the line this week. We’ll also highlight a player and a storyline to watch.

Maui Invitational

Despite some early season struggles, Bill Self and Kansas are still the clear favorite in Maui. (Getty)

Despite some early struggles, Bill Self and Kansas are still the clear favorite in Maui. (Getty)

  • Favorite: Kansas. Even with no Cheick Diallo or Brannen Greene for the week and the second half collapse to Michigan State in Chicago notwithstanding, the Jayhawks are still the clear favorite in Maui as the only top 10 team in this tournament. Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor are seniors. Frank Mason and Wayne Selden are juniors. This is an experienced team that might be going on its last ride together. As usual, there’s chatter about this being the year the Big 12 title streak is broken. Winning the Maui title would probably pump the brakes on that notion, at least for the time being.
  • Darkhorse: UCLA. In terms of talent and potential, the Bruins are a clear sleeper. Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford, Tony Parker  you could easily see a team with talented pieces like these upsetting a still-not-quite-right Kansas in the semifinal and then taking out Indiana or Vanderbilt the next night. Of course, they’re flaky enough that they could brick the last Maui quarter to UNLV, especially after that whole Monmouth thing.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas in the Maui Invitational

Posted by Chris Stone on November 23rd, 2015

It’s Feast Week in college basketball. To get you ready for the Big 12’s representation in the various holiday tournaments this week, our Feast Week Mission Briefings begin today.

Catching Up: It’s already been quite an eventful beginning to the season for Kansas. The Jayhawks pummeled Northern Colorado in the opener, 109-72, in a game where they knocked down 15 three-pointers. In their first real test, though, Kansas again stumbled at the Champions Classic. The Jayhawks couldn’t handle a second half explosion from Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine and did themselves no favors on the offensive end. Some good news came last Friday when freshman big man Cheick Diallo received a waiver from the NCAA to travel with the team to Maui, but Diallo has yet to be cleared. As a result, head coach Bill Self has now begun to unleash his wrath against the sport’s governing body in public settings. Whether Diallo will be cleared to play this week (or this season) remains a mystery, but it’s becoming apparent that Self is tired of the distraction of waiting for an answer. In between the Jayhawks’ loss to Michigan State and Self’s campaign against the NCAA, Kansas also suspended guard Brannen Greene for six games as the result of a playing time dispute. Kansas, it seems, is in a bit of a mini-crisis heading into today’s Maui Invitational.

Bill Self and Tom Crean could meet on the court in the final of the Maui Invitational. (Photo Credit: KU Sports/Nick Krug)

Bill Self and Tom Crean could meet on the court in the championship game of the Maui Invitational. (Photo Credit: KU Sports/Nick Krug)

Opening Round Preview: The Jayhawks will have an opportunity to work out any kinks relating to Greene’s suspension in their first round game against host Chaminade, by far the easiest opening round matchup. The Division II Silverswords are currently 0-2, having already lost to Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska earlier this month. Chaminade averages 32 three-point attempts per contest and they convert 14 of them, so Kansas will need to do a good job of protecting the perimeter. In general, though, this is the type of game where Self’s squad will pound it inside and wear down the overmatched opponent. The Jayhawks’ much tougher tests in the islands will come on Tuesday and Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 11.18.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 18th, 2015

morning5_bigten

  1. Last night we were treated to an excellent slate of non-conference matchups involving three Big Ten teams. First, Nebraska traveled to Philadelphia and played Villanova tough for the first 10 minutes of the game before ultimately getting blown out. Next, Maryland rekindled an old city rivalry when it hosted Georgetown. The Terps edged the Hoyas behind Melo Trimble’s 24-point effort and transfer Rasheed Sulaimon’s late three to seal the game. Finally, Michigan State came back to win against Kansas after being behind the Jayhawks for almost the entirety. Denzel Valentine was phenomenal, becoming one of just a handful of players to record a triple-double in a Spartans uniform. It was an excellent all-around night of basketball for Big Ten fans.
  2. For Bo Ryan, the challenge of rebuilding at Wisconsin since the departure of five instrumental players from his back-to-back Final Four teams is becoming real. First, there was a humbling loss to Western Illinois — a team that is projected to finish dead last in the Summit League — at the Kohl Center. Then, on Tuesday night, the Badgers learned that Andy Van Vliet — a 6’10” forward from Belgium — has been ruled ineligible for the entire season. This leaves Ryan short another player at a time when he’s still trying to figure out his rotation and the ultimate identity of his team.
  3. On Monday, Indiana finished its two-game set of Maui Invitational opening round games when it walloped Austin Peay, 102-76. As expected, the Hoosiers’ offense has been humming along early, as evidenced by their 69.8 percent effective field goal percentage on the season. More promising, however, is that Indiana’s defense looks markedly improved as Tom Crean’s group has kept its opponents at under one point per possession so far this season. The true test for his team will be next week’s venture to the Maui Invitational where, along with Kansas, Indiana is the favorite to leave the island with some hardware.
  4. In their first two games of the season, Purdue has showcased why it was selected as a preseason Top 25 team and considered a legitimate contender for a Big Ten title. Winning those contests by a combined 69 points, what’s even more impressive is that they’ve done so without the services of their best player, A.J. Hammons, who has been watching from the bench. Matt Painter has been ambiguous about the specific reason for his senior center’s absence, instead stating that “he’s got to take care of some business internally” before he can again see the court. Whenever he does return to the lineup, though, his presence will certainly add to a squad already performing at a high level — no doubt sending chills throughout the rest of the Big Ten.
  5. One of the reasons the Boilermakers have been able to make do without Hammons in the lineup is because of the exceptional play of star freshman Caleb Swanigan. In his first two games as a collegian, the big-bodied forward averaged 12.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game while also shooting over 40 percent from the three-point line. For those efforts, Swanigan was awarded the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award on Monday. Look for the precocious Boilermaker to keep up this pace even when Hammons returns as he has already shown a developed ability to play away from the basket.
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Best of the B1G: Top November Non-Conference Games

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 26th, 2015

Despite the large number of games involving Big Ten teams during the first weekend of college basketball, things don’t really get going until the the following Tuesday of ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon as the Gavitt Games (including Maryland, Penn State and Nebraska) and the Champions Classic (Michigan State) tip off. Much of the best non-conference action will come from the former event, which will pit the Big Ten against the Big East for eight games over four days. In chronological order, here’s a look at most of the marquee Big Ten match-ups during the first month of the season.  Potential late-round games in holiday tournaments are also included with an assumption that brackets will hold true to form.

November 17

  • Maryland-Georgetown: Lofty preseason expectations for Maryland aside, this one is going to be absolutely huge within the Beltway. These two teams — located just 10 miles apart in the DC area — should play every year, so it’s a treat to get this match-up so early in the season.
  • Michigan State-Kansas: The Spartans can make an early statement here, as both teams have legitimate national expectations coming into the season. Whether you are looking for veterans who have seemingly been in college for 27 years (Denzel Valentine and Perry Ellis), or rookie superstars (Devonta Davis and Cheick Diallo), this one will be worth watching.
Denzel Valentine Is Back For A Final Season In Spartan Green And White (Photo: USAT Sports)

Denzel Valentine Is Back For A Final Season In Spartan Green And White (Photo: USAT Sports)

November 18

  • Illinois-Providence: Part of the Gavitt Games, the Illini will have a difficult test without Kendrick Dunn as they travel to Rhode Island to take on consensus preseason All-American Kris Dunn.

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Analyzing Purdue’s Performance in Maui

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 27th, 2014

After three convincing wins against three low-major teams and the impressive debut of freshman Vince Edwards, Purdue entered the Maui Invitational ready to test themselves against their major-conference peers and see if they’re as significantly improved from last season as they have appeared thus far. So what did they find out? They’re definitely better than last year but their season-long trajectory is still yet to be determined. Purdue finished Maui in fifth place with a 2-1 showing. The Boilermakers have proven they can beat teams likely not making the NCAA Tournament (Missouri) or likely to be on the bubble (BYU); but they missed their opportunity to get a resume win or two when they dropped their tournament-opener to Kansas State. But most importantly, they learned they’re a talented group that will need more consistency from their starters and less costly turnovers in order to really make some waves in conference play.

Rapheal Davis helped lead Purdue to a 2-1 and 5th place finish in Maui.

Rapheal Davis helped lead Purdue to a 2-1 record and 5th place finish in Maui.

Against Kansas State, the Boilermakers effectively lost the game in the first half when they committed 11 turnovers that led to 17 Wildcats points, and subsequently a 15-point halftime deficit. In their second game against Mizzou, Purdue remedied their first half woes by coming out strong and playing physical defense right from tipoff, which led to the Tigers being unable to make a field goal until six minutes into the game. In the final game against BYU, the Boilermakers found themselves in a back-and-forth nail biter that went into overtime, which could have been lost due to a Rapheal Davis turnover, but instead was won on A.J. Hammons hook shot. The last few sequences of the BYU game seems representative of Purdue’s Maui performance: moments of intense frustration from turnovers, that is overcome by the innate talent within this group.

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Announcement of 2016 Field a Reminder that Maui is Still King

Posted by Henry Bushnell on November 25th, 2014

December 23, 1982. It’s a date etched in college basketball folklore, and with good reason. You’ve probably heard the tale before, perhaps many times: the tale of big, bad Ralph Sampson towering above his opponents; the tale of the tiny gym, of the mysterious aura; the tale of mighty Virginia being confounded and eventually upset by plucky Chaminade, an embryonic NAIA squad in just its eighth season of competition.

A Game 32 Years Ago Set the Maui Invitational in Motion

A Game 32 Years Ago Set the Maui Invitational in Motion

In fact, every November, the Maui Invitational serves as a convenient reminder of that day nearly 32 years ago, because it was in the wake of Chaminade’s shocking win that the tournament was born. What began as a four-team event soon expanded to eight, and pretty soon, it was attracting the top teams from around the country. Michigan made its first trip in 1985, Kansas (along with Stanford, Villanova and Illinois) followed in 1987, UNLV came in 1988, North Carolina debuted in 1989, Duke visited in 1992, and Arizona in 1993. As big time programs flocked to Maui, it became the pinnacle of November college basketball, and built quite the reputation. For at least two decades, it was one of the kings of early season tournaments.

It wasn’t the undisputed king though. Alongside Maui had always been the Preseason NIT, now known as the NIT Season Tip-Off, and the Great Alaska Shootout, both of which also drew the bluebloods. Recently though, given the resounding success of Maui in particular, even more competition began to sprout up in the form of other holiday tournaments. Organizers realized that with school temporarily out of session for Thanksgiving break, teams would love to travel to desirable locations and test themselves against other top national contenders. In 1995, the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic was founded. Following the turn of the century, the CBE Classic (2001), Old Spice Classic (2006, now the Orlando Classic), and Legends Classic (2007), plus others, joined the fray, and suddenly, it was no longer Maui, NIT or bust. Elite programs had options aplenty, and it may have even seemed as if the exclusivity and uniqueness of Maui had been watered down.

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Pac-12 Teams and Feast Week

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 24th, 2014

It’s Feast Week, an ESPN creation that began with the Maui Invitational and the Preseason NIT back in the mid-80s and has morphed into a month-long parade of mini-tournaments that serves as college basketball’s introduction. Pac-12 schools kicked off their involvement in these exempt events last week with middling success, as the Bay Area schools each notched one impressive victory followed by a sobering loss in a championship game against a top 10 team. This week, Arizona and UCLA represent the conference in what have become the premier events of their kind: the venerable Maui Invitational and the new kid on the block, the Battle 4 Atlantis. Below, we’ll take a look at the Wildcats’ and the Bruins’ draws in their events, along with Washington’s appearance in the Wooden Legacy and Oregon’s presence in the Legends Classic.

Maui Invitational: Arizona

Opening Game: vs. Missouri (11/24, 2PM PST, ESPN2). The Wildcats get started against a Missouri team that got off to a rough start under new head coach Kim Anderson, with a loss to UMKC on the opening night of the season. With last year’s top three leading scorers now gone, the Tigers are relying on sophomore point guard Wes Clark, freshman scorer Montaque Gill-Caesar, frontcourt specimen Jonathan Williams III and Hawaii transfer Keith Shamburger to provide offense. If Clark, Gill-Caesar and Shamburger can get hot from deep, the Tigers could stick around for awhile, but Arizona’s overall athleticism should give the Wildcats a significant advantage.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson And The Crew Will See An Increased Level Of Competition In Maui (Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star)

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson And The Crew Will See An Increased Level Of Competition In Maui (Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star)

Please God Let Us See: Arizona vs. San Diego State in the Championship Game

Let’s face it — this is by no means a classic Maui field. But if these two teams advance to the title game as expected, we could have a real West Coast classic on Thanksgiving Eve. A budding geographic rivalry, a match-up on West Maui would be something to be thankful for indeed. These teams faced each other twice last season with the Wildcats dispatching the Aztecs both times, including a Sweet Sixteen battle royale in Anaheim. With Steve Fisher needing to replace leading scorer – and just plain old leader – Xavier Thames, the Aztecs probably aren’t quite as far along as the Wildcats are, but they’ve got the length and athleticism to make guys like Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson compete against guys of similar ability.

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