Sunshine, hula skirts, roasted pigs, and hoops. That is what's on tap for November 23, 24, 25. While you take your
Thanksgiving vacation, college ballers from across the country will come together at one of the holiday's most entertaining college basketball tourneys: the Maui Invitational.
Each year, the Maui Invitational boasts a roster of the country's best squads looking to boost their non-conference resume, and this year is certainly no different. Even better, the brackets, revealed yesterday, show that there will be some early drama on the island. Here are the match-ups, predictions, and what the outcomes could eventually mean for these promising teams come March.
St. John's vs. Vanderbilt: Vandy could benefit more from this win than St. John's who will find themselves, during the regular season, competing with a tough Big East schedule. Either winner will likely face Indiana in the next round of the championship bracket, but a game against likely loser Wake Forest (who will have a rigorous ACC schedule to come) in the consolation bracket, wouldn't hurt anyone's resume.But, either way, don't expect St. John's or Vandy to take it all.
Wake Forest vs. Indiana: This is the second most interesting matchup of the tournament. These are two teams with a lot to lose in Maui if either performs poorly. These are also two teams that could certainly win the entire tournament. Indiana's conference schedule will improve their overall resume no matter what.
So, Wake Forest has more to lose if they end up in the consolation bracket after this match up. Indiana comes out of this game with a victory and will likely play St. John's.
Kansas v. Chaminade: Kansas should dominate Chaminade in this un-marquee matchup. Is anyone shocked that the blue blood basketball powerhouse received such a pass while the other games will likely be nail bitingly close?
The only thing that the Silverswords, an awesome mascot by the way, have going for them
is that that are the home town favorites. Will it be enough to defeat the Jayhawks? Nope. Expect Kansas to slay the Silverswords with their own blades.
UNLV v. UCLA: This is the most exciting first round game in the tournament. UCLA's coach Alford will make his first appearance against UNLV since darting to UCLA from New Mexico; and in the Mountain West conference, the New Mexico and UNLV rivalry grew significantly under Alford's leadership. Will the loss of UCLA's key contributors over the last year be too significant to overcome?
Likely, it won't be, because UNLV faces the same dilemma. This game will go down to the wire and UNLV's talent
will prevail. But, here's a little history for you. The last time Kansas won this tournament was in 1996. The last time UCLA won was in 2006 and Indiana won in 2002. And let's not forget about Vandy's victory back in 1986.
No matter the record at the Maui Invitational, many of these teams are squads with championship pedigrees and they boast players who come from schools where they are expected to win.
For that reason, with the exception of the Chaminade v. Kansas game, none of these matches will be duds. And the showings and results at the Maui Invitational have become synonymous with later success that forms in mid-March which is evident in the recent list of Maui champions that includes schools such as Arizona, Duke, Connecticut, and North Carolina.
My predictions for the tourney: St. John's eventually faces Indiana and UNLV duels with Kansas in the semifinals. Indiana and Kansas will find themselves battling for the championship on November 25. The spoiler could be Wake Forest coming out of the sharp shooting ACC who would benefit tremendously for a chance to take on Kansas on the final day of the tourney.
Regardless the result, it's must watch TV for the holiday break. And even though we can't dart off to the islands, we can watch our favorite college ball clubs enjoy the sunshine and competition.