As we head towards summer, we’re starting to get a good feel for some of the non-conference games we’ll see next season. Last week, we had a couple more tournament and special events announce their fields, or at least part of their fields.

The Las Vegas Invitational announced a field of Kansas, Arizona, Santa Clara and Ohio U. The headliner matchup is obviously the Kansas/Arizona matchup, which will be played on the evening of November 27 at the Orleans Arena.

And, speaking of Kansas, rough news for the Jayhawks the last couple of days. Aside from being an absolute afterthought in conference expansion/realignment talk, they reported last week that incoming freshman Josh Selby had broken an arm and would be out 4-6 weeks, then at the alumni basketball game, Marcus Morris bruised his back and had to be carried off the court, while minutes later Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson collided with each other and came up bleeding, Robinson with a broken nose and Morris with a cut in his mouth that required three stitches.

Elsewhere, the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic announced the schools that will host the regional round of their “tournament”: Illinois, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Texas. Each school will host two games against lesser schools before advancing to the semifinals (regardless of the outcomes of the regional round games) in Madison Square Garden on November 18 and 19. The matchups for the semifinals have not yet been announced, but it would seem that Pitt/Maryland and Illinois/Texas would make the most sense in the semis, as Pitt should be the highest ranked of those four teams and Maryland the lowest. A good set of games though, however.

The SEC-Big East Invitational announced its matchups as well, a couple of double-headers in December. The first set of doubleheaders will take place on December 8th in Louisville, with Arkansas and Seton Hall serving as the warm-up for Notre Dame and Kentucky. Pittsburgh will host the other doubleheader at its place, with Auburn and Rutgers squaring off in the preliminary bout and Tennessee taking on the Panthers for the nightcap on December 11th. Of the four games, the Pitt/Tennessee game looks to be by far the highlight.

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups have already been announced. On Monday, November 29th, Virginia will travel to Minnesota for the opening game. On November 30th, North Carolina at Illinois will highlight a slate of five games, with Ohio State at Florida State, Michigan at Clemson, Georgia Tech at Northwestern and Iowa at Wake Forest filling out the night. The games for December 1st are highlighted by what figures to be the best non-conference game of the season, Michigan State (with or without Tom Izzo) traveling to Durham to face the reigning champion Duke Blue Devils. However, there are a couple of other really intriguing games that night, with Purdue traveling to Virginia Tech and Wisconsin hosting a young and hopeful N.C. State team. Indiana at Boston College and Maryland at Penn State round out the schedule. Miami will be the ACC team sitting out the challenge this year, but maybe they can schedule a matchup with Nebraska, just for fun.

The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series matchups have also already been announced, and in the wake of the Pac-16 rumors, this series should have added significance this year. The UCLA/Kansas matchup on Thursday, December 2nd stands out as a matchup between two perennial powers, but UCLA will have to show some severe improvement to stand up to the Jayhawks this season. Other very interesting matchups include Arizona State at Baylor (on the 2nd as well) and Washington at Texas A&M on December 11th. The rest of the schedule includes USC/Nebraska (Nov. 27), Missouri/Oregon (Dec. 2), Kansas State/Washington State (Dec. 3), Oregon State/Colorado, Cal/Iowa State, Texas Tech/ Washington (all on Dec. 4), Texas/USC, Oklahoma/Arizona (both on Dec. 5) and Stanford/Oklahoma State on Dec. 21.

Other tournaments in the style of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (run by the Gazelle Group, which has an apparent aversion to running fair win-and-advance tournaments, after the Kentucky/Gardner-Webb upset of a couple years back), in which four teams host regional round games at their places before advancing to a semifinal round (regardless of the outcomes of the early rounds) at a neutral site include the CBE Classic and the Legend’s Classic. While the format of the tournament is not ideal, they certainly get good fields (and why not, guaranteed gimme-games at home and guaranteed schedule-booster neutral site games). The CBE features Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas State and Marquette, while the Legend’s features Georgia Tech, Michigan, Syracuse and UTEP. Clearly the CBE is the better of those two fields, with a potential Duke/Kansas State final, although all four of those matchups figure to be intriguing. The Legend’s field lacks a really top-tier team (although, I’ve counted out Boeheim’s teams far too early in the past, and I wouldn’t doubt that I’m doing it again now), however the names on the unis will certainly look impressive.

The strongest field of the traditional tournaments looks to be the Maui Invitational. Headlined by Kentucky and Michigan State, the field also includes the host Chaminade as well as Connecticut, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and Wichita State. While no bracket has been released a UConn/Kentucky, Michigan State/Washington set of semifinals looks pretty inviting.

Of the other ESPN-sponsored preseason tournaments, the best belongs to the second iteration of the Diamond Head Classic, to be held around Christmas. The event features two of last year’s Elite Eight in Butler and Baylor, with Florida State, Hawaii, Mississippi State, San Diego, Utah and Washington State rounding out the field.

The rest of the ESPN tourneys are good, not great. The Old Spice Classic features Boston College, California, Georgia, Manhattan, Notre Dame, Temple, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. We’ll get a first good look at Steve Donahue’s BC club, with likely two of Temple, Texas A&M or Wisconsin matching up in the final.

The 76 Classic field is Cal State Northridge, DePaul, Murray State, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Tulsa, UNLV and Virginia Tech make up the field, with Murray State having replaced Penn State, which withdrew due to scheduling concerns. UNLV, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State look to be the strongest teams in the field, and it would make sense that those three and Murray State would be matched up to potentially play in the second round, with perhaps UNLV and Virginia Tech on opposite sides of the bracket for a potential final matchup.

The Puerto Rico Tip-Off has North Carolina as the highlight, but West Virginia, Vanderbilt and Minnesota will also bring some interest. Davidson, Hofstra, Nebraska and Western Kentucky round out that field.

The Charleston Classic is still in the process of building its field, but so far Charlotte, East Carolina, George Mason, Georgetown, N.C. State and Wofford make up the rest of the field with two teams still to be determined. The field is off to a good start however, with a Georgetown/NC State final being an intriguing possibility.

And finally for the ESPN-sponsored events, there will also be a new tournament this year, the Cancun Governor’s Cup,held between December 22-24 and featuring a field of Appalachian State, Colorado State, East Tennessee State, Ole Miss, Northeastern, Saint Louis, Southern Miss and Texas State.

In other tournaments, the NIT Season Tip-Off has not been officially announced, but it has been reported that Tennessee, UCLA and Villanova will be the headliners of the field. While the semifinals of this tournament will be played at Madison Square Garden, this is a traditional tournament in which the teams have to, you know, actually win their early round games to advance, so it remains to be seen if UCLA will even get to New York.

The Paradise Jam is made up of Alabama, Clemson, Iowa, Long Beach State, Old Dominion, Seton Hall, Saint Peters and Xavier, a decent field with the potential for a mid-major delight in the finals, with Xavier and Old Dominion perhaps the favorites there.

The Chicago Invitational will include Purdue, Richmond, Southern Illinois and Wright State, and could feature an interesting Purdue/Richmond final.

The Great Alaska Shooutout is a shadow of its former self, but at least was able to get eight teams for this season’s edition after a field of just six teams last year. Arizona State and St. John’s are the biggest names here, with host Alaska-Anchorage joining Ball State, Drake, Houston Baptist, Southern Utah and Weber State.

The Cancun Challenge has not completed their field yet, but have announced La Salle, Northern Iowa, North Florida, Providence and Wyoming so far with three more schools to come.

There will also be the South Padre Island Invitational, but all I can find on that so far is that Texas Tech will be in the field.

Me, I’ll be at the 76 Classic, but one of these year’s I’ve gotta do the Maui Invitational. Although, as much as I love college basketball, knowing I could be snorkeling in the Pacific after a quick trip through the gymnasium doors would be a distracting proposition. Maybe it would be best to save Maui for the offseason.

 

 


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