This is the week college basketball really starts to heat up. After a week of seeing the top teams mostly play cupcakes, they all enter some tournaments which could lead to some great matchups. It must be nice to be able to spend a few days in Maui or the Bahamas. These tournaments get started today and run throughout the week, including games on Thanksgiving. The NFL tends to have a stranglehold on this holiday but college basketball is doing all they can to get a slice of that apple/pumpkin pie, depending on what suits your taste buds. So, don’t get stuck having to watch only football on Thanksgiving because “it’s tradition”. Start a new tradition in your house and enjoy the 1-2 punch of DeAndre Ayton and Allonzo Trier or the St. Mary’s team that might just be this year’s Cinderella team come March. Here’s a preview of some of the top tournaments this week.
Maui Invitational, Nov. 20th to Nov. 22nd
-A staple of the early season tournaments, the Maui Invitational always has an exciting slate of teams. This year’s headliner is #6 Wichita State who has a very good chance to be this year’s Gonzaga and make a run all the way to the Final Four. Through their first two games, the Shockers have played nine guys at least 16.5 minutes per game and all can contribute in different ways. The Shockers have looked really good so far despite the fact they are missing most likely their best player in Markis McDuffie. The Shockers will get their first test in this tournament against some very good teams. In the semi-final they could see either a Marquette team that features in explosive backcourt in guards Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey or a VCU team that always gives teams problems, including Virginia who eeked out a win against VCU on Friday. And in the championship, they could see either the #13th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish who are led by one of the best players in the country in senior forward Bonzie Colson or the Michigan Wolverines who have struggled to start the season but have shown flashes that they have the talent to get rolling. This should be a fun tournament and will most likely be a coming out party for the Wichita State Shockers.
Hall of Fame Classic, Nov. 20th and 21st
-Just a mini four team tournament that features two teams that are ranked in the top 25. Creighton will face off against UCLA in one of the matchups. Creighton is coming off a big win over a ranked Northwestern team thanks a big game from guard Khyri Thomas who scored 24 points. He and fellow guard Marcus Foster are a lethal 1-2 punch in the backcourt for the Bluejays as either can go off on any night. UCLA has been in the news a lot lately due to the China shoplifting incident that has now led to President Trump tweeting that he is disappointed that Lavar Ball is not grateful enough. Wow, what a world we’re living in. As for on the court, UCLA is struggling to find their way. Freshmen Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands have impressed so far but depth will be an issue for this team as the season progresses. In the other matchup, Wisconsin takes on Baylor. For Wisconsin, the Badgers are still trying to find their way with their new look roster this season. Lone returning starter big man Ethan Happ has gotten off to a good start, averaging 17.7 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game. The matchup between Happ and Baylor big man Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. will be a fun one to watch as Lual-Acuil is averaging 12 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game. He and senior point guard Manu Lecomte will be a tough duo to slow down.
Battle 4 Atlantis, Nov. 22nd to Nov. 24th
-This tournament features three top 25 teams including two ranked in the top 10. #5 Villanova has been untested in their first three games this season so this tournament should give us a good idea of just how good this Villanova team is. They’re led by junior guards Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, two guys who have been really good role players on some of the recent talented Villanova teams that are now adjusting to lead roles. So far no problems for either but a semi-final matchup with #18 Purdue should be interesting. This is an experienced Purdue team that can hurt you inside and outside. Down low, 7’2” big man Isaac Haas is a problem for most teams, Haas is averaging 13.5 points per game in just 18.8 minutes per game this season. On the outside, the Boilermakers have a number of guards and wings that can hit from downtown as they are shooting 48.9% from beyond the arc as a team. Purdue should give Villanova all it can handle if they meet up. On the other side of the bracket is #2 Arizona who is led by the aforementioned Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton. Trier is looking like a potential National Player of the Year candidate, averaging 30 points per game while shooting 58.8% from three. While Ayton may not be the National Player of the Year, he very well might be the #1 pick in next June’s NBA draft. The freshman is off to a hot start, averaging 18.7 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game. Arizona is much more than just these two as they go ten deep with senior role players and freshmen talent. With that combo, Arizona is not only the favorite to win this tournament but maybe the favorite to win the big one in March too.
PK80-Phil Knight Invitational, Nov. 23rd to Nov. 26th
-In honor of Nike legendary co-founder Phil Knight, this one-time tournament features 16 teams in two, eight team brackets. The tournament features five teams currently ranked in the top 25 and a number of other talented teams that make this one of the marquee early season tournaments this season. In the first bracket, the victory bracket, the two teams that looked destined to meet up in the championship are #4 Michigan State and #9 North Carolina. The Spartans will be looking for some ACC revenge after their tough loss to #1 Duke this season. However, Michigan State could be without their star player, sophomore Miles Bridges who injured his ankle in Sunday’s win. He’s considered day-to-day for the time being. Without Bridges, getting to the finals may not be a sure thing as they’ll have to face the winner of Oregon-UConn in the semi-final. UConn is led by guards Terry Larrier and Jalen Adams who both can score in a hurry, plus a number of versatile wings and big men who can cause problems. As for Oregon, they have a new look roster after their trip to the Final Four last season but still have plenty of talent in Eugene. The Ducks have averaged 94.8 points per game so far this season in their first four games. In the other bracket, #1 Duke could see a matchup against either #7 Florida or #17 Gonzaga in the championship. Florida is led by senior guard Egor Koulechov who is averaging 20 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, and is shooting 45% from beyond the arc. Gonzaga is another team that has a new look roster after last year’s Final Four trip. They’re biggest threat is sophomore big man Killian Tillie who is averaging 12.3 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game. Both of these teams have enough talent to at least put up a fight against the super-talented Blue Devils. Duke also will have to face the winner of Butler-Texas in the semi-finals, which should be another fun game to watch between two teams who could be playing in March.