The advent of early-season tournaments and invitationals over the past decade or so has really done a lot to get college basketball jump started in the month of November. Sure, it is the thick of football season, both college and pro, but these tournaments give basketball fans something to pay attention to, as they often produce some great early season match ups and give a sneak peak on what to expect from teams going forward. Last year, UConn would have remained a relatively unknown entity had they not made an impressive run in the Maui Invitational. Similar stories can be told almost every year.
More and more of these tournaments seem to be popping up every year, so I thought I’d take a look at what we have to look forward to this coming season.
1. Maui Invitational, Nov. 21-23, Maui, HI
Participants: Chaminade, Duke, Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan, Tennessee, UCLA
Analysis:The Maui Invitational often boasts an impressive field, and this year is no different. Duke and Kansas obviously headline this group from a prestige-perspective, but watch out for Memphis, Michigan, and possibly even UCLA to make quite a bit of noise this year. Georgetown and Tennessee won’t be as strong as they have been in previous years, but if those are two of your bottom three tournament teams, you know you have a good field.
I like Michigan as a sleeper here, but am just as excited to see what Memphis has in store with a young but extremely talented roster coming into this season.
2. CBE Classic, Nov. 13-17 and 21-22, Kansas City, MO
Participants: *California, *Georgia, *Missouri, *Notre Dame; Rest of field TBA (* – automatically advance to championship round)
Analysis: The Kansas City location isn’t necessarily glamorous, but this tournament will be quite competitive this year. This is one of those tournaments where most of the field will participate in play-in games at different sites to see who makes it to KC, but the teams slated to automatically advance are a solid group. California should be the favorites.
3. Coaches vs. Cancer, Nov. 7-11 and 17-18, New York, NY
Participants: *Arizona, *Mississippi State, *St. John’s, *Texas A&M; Rest of field TBA (* – automatically advance to championship round)
Analysis: Coaches vs. Cancer is always a popular tournament, especially since it is played in Madison Square Garden and always is televised in prime time on ESPN. The field this year features teams with a lot to prove after losing key guys off of their squads from last season. Arizona has an exciting young class coming in, and St. John’s will certainly be a hometown favorite. Texas A&M may have the most talent, but will be adjusting to a new coach. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a team from the play-in field make a run here.
4. Diamond Head Classic, Dec. 22-23 and 25, Honolulu, HI
Participants: Auburn, Clemson, Hawaii, Kansas State, Long Beach State, Southern Illinois, UTEP, Xavier
Analysis: This could be a very underrated field when it is all said and done. Xavier will headline the group, but Clemson, KSU, and UTEP could all very well be tournament teams, and you never know with MVC teams like Southern Illinois. It’s the latest “early-season” tournament, which should mean that these teams will be in much better form.
5. Legends Classic, Nov. 13-17 and 19-21, East Rutherford, NJ
Participants: *NC State, *Oregon State, *Texas, *Vanderbilt; Rest of field TBA (* – automatically advance to championship round)
Analysis: Like the CBE Classic, Legends will be formatted with a play-in round with NC State, Oregon State, Texas, and Vandy automatically advancing. Vanderbilt will be the odds-on favorite in this tournament, especially with Texas losing three of their top players from last year’s squad. Still, a pretty well-rounded field leaves some room for surprise here.
6. Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Nov. 17-20, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Participants: Alabama, Colorado, Iona, Maryland, Wichita State, Purdue, Temple, TBA
Analysis: No powerhouses here, but a very solid field will be headed to Puerto Rico this November. Colorado lost Alec Burks, but might surprise some people this season, while Alabama is looking to build off their SEC West title last season. Maryland and Purdue will be interesting teams to watch as they both lost key players from last year’s squad.
Also, beware of Temple…
7. Battle 4 Atlantis, Nov. 23-27, Paradise Island, Bahamas
Participants: Connecticut, College of Charleston, Florida State, Harvard, Massachusetts, NC-Asheville, UCF, Utah
Analysis: This tournament gets my vote for most appealing location, but besides that the team to watch will obviously be defending-champion UConn. I am most excited to see Jeremy Lamb being option number one and how he handles that. If Harvard stays on the other side of the bracket, they actually would have a great shot at meeting the Huskies in the finals. Even if they lose, a potential UConn-FSU match-up wouldn’t be so bad.
8. 76 Classic, Nov. 24-25 and 27, Anaheim, CA
Participants: Boston College, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Saint Louis, Santa Clara, UC Riverside, Washington State, Villanova
Analysis: ‘Nova lost a lot of experience from last year’s squad, but the younger guys who are stepping into bigger roles were all highly recruited and are finally getting their chance to shine. The rest of the field seems to be entering their own rebuilding processes, however. Look for a possible Santa Clara sleeper here.
9. Old Spice Classic, Nov. 24-25 and 27, Orlando, FL
Participants: Arizona State, Dayton, DePaul, Fairfield, Indiana State, Minnesota, Texas Tech, Wake Forest
Analysis: It’s nice to see a bunch of major conferences represented in this tournament, but it’s just too bad that none of the teams from those conferences have high expectations this season. Still, it should provide for some solid competition and maybe a sleeper going forward. I actually like Indiana State to take this one home…
…and that is why the Old Spice Classic is ranked near the bottom of the list.
10. Hall of Fame Tip-Off, Nov. 19-20, Uncasville, CT
Participants: Long Island, Marist, Radford, Vermont, Old Dominion, Penn State, Kentucky, South Florida
Analysis: There is very little chance that Kentucky doesn’t absolutely rip through this tournament. If there was even one team in this field that could stand up to the Wildcats, it would be a lot more interesting. Still, it will be interesting to see John Calipari’s star-studded freshmen class mesh with returning players, most notably Terrence Jones, early on in the season.
By the way, where Battle 4 Atlantis gets my best location vote for playing in the Bahamas, this tournament easily comes in last place (sorry Uncasville).
11. Paradise Jam, Dates TBA, U.S. Virgin Islands
Participants: Drake, Drexel, Marquette, Mississippi, Norfolk State, Texas Christian, Virginia, Winthrop
Analysis: Marquette shouldn’t have too much trouble down in the Virgin Islands, but maybe watch out for Ole Miss or Virginia to sneak up on them. Still, if you catch these highlights on SportsCenter, that’s probably all you need.
12. Charleston Classic, Nov. 17-20, Charleston, SC
Participants: Georgia Tech, LSU, Saint Joseph’s, Seton Hall, Tulsa, VCU, Western Kentucky, TBA
Analysis: The names on the front of the jerseys may make you get a little excited, but that is before you realize that most of these teams were bottom-dwellers in their respective conferences last year. VCU probably will be the favorite, coming off of their Final Four run last season, and it will be fun to see Shaka Smart on the sidelines again. Other than that, probably won’t be #1 on my DVR list come November.
13. Cancun Challenge, Nov. 22-23, Cancun, Mexico
Participants: Illinois, Illinois State, Richmond, Rutgers, Hampton, Lipscomb, Sacred Heart, SIU-Edwardsville
Analysis: The location is about the most exciting part of this one, although an Illinois-Illinois State match-up could be intriguing just for state bragging rights. Richmond sounds like it could be an intriguing team until you realize they lost their top three players from last year’s squad. Next…