Top 5 Early-Season College Basketball Tournaments
Top 5 Early Season College Basketball Tournaments
The college basketball season is officially underway, and that means that all of those early-season tournaments that we all love so much are right around the corner, among other things. It’s not the holiday season without watching top college basketball teams playing in small gyms day after day hoping to get an early-season confidence boost by holding up a trophy. Thus, I have put together a list of the top five early-season tournaments so that you don’t miss anything. I have limiting my list to only the eight-team tournaments that are played across three days, and not the four-team tournaments that take place in just two.
By season’s end, it’s easy to forget about many of these tournaments, but they’re actually quite important. It’s a great way for teams to pick up resume-building wins that look good later in the season and will ultimately help boost their RPI and strength of schedule by the time the NCAA Tournament Committee takes a look at their profile in March. It’s also a good way for teams to make a statement to their conference or the rest of the country about how good they’re going to be this year.
Of course, it’s a great way for the fans to see competitive and slightly more meaningful games than the ones that are usually played throughout November and December before conference play begins. This year, as we’ve seen in the past, there are early-season tournaments filled with marquee teams, and here are five tournaments you’re going to want to check out:
5. Charleston Classic
There’s not a whole lot of star power in this tournament, but if you like mid-majors, you’ll want to check it out. The New Mexico Lobos will be heavy favorites despite losing head coach Steve Alford, as they are loaded with upper classmen coming back from the team that won 29 games last year. Temple and UMass should also be contenders in this tournament, assuming both can get past major conference opponents in the first round Clemson and Georgia could have a slight home-court advantage as they’re not too far away from Charleston, as is Davidson, who is another quality mid-major program in this tournament that could be a bit of an X-factor. If you want to see some intriguing mid-major teams early in the season, check out the Charleston Classic.
4. Wooden Legacy
There are no powerhouse programs here, but there are a handful of quality basketball teams. San Diego State and Creighton are two quality teams that are set up to meet in the semifinals, but only if San Diego State can take care of a pesky College of Charleston team and Creighton doesn’t get tripped up by a solid Arizona State team. On the other side of the bracket, there could be a rematch from last year's Sweet 16 between Miami and Marquette. Miami is trying to build off of last year’s success despite losing several key players, including Shane Larkin, so they should be an interesting team to watch. As for Marquette, they the favorites of this tournament and could be favorites to win the new Big East. Oddly enough, there could be an all-Big East final if Marquette and Creighton end up playing each other in the championship game, which would be a unique event.
3. Old Spice Classic
This tournament has a nice collection of teams with four participants that are arguably among the top 50 in the country, which should set up some compelling semifinal matchups. The Memphis Tigers are the clear favorite of the tournament, but they’ll have a tough semifinal matchup against the winner of LSU vs. St. Joseph’s, which should be a closely contested first-round game. On the other side of the bracket, Oklahoma State and Butler are set up to meet in the semifinals, and if all goes as expected, the winner of that game will meet Memphis in a rather compelling final game, making the final day of this tournament quite appealing.
2. Puerto Rick Tipoff
Puerto Rico usually has one of the better early-season tournaments, and this year is no different. The Michigan Wolverines headline this tournament after playing in the national title game last year. In the semifinals, they may have to face the VCU Rams, a team they blew out during their run to the Final Four last March. Of course, VCU first has to beat Florida State, one of the teams Shaka Smart’s team beat on their way to the Final Four in 2011. The top half of the bracket isn’t too shabby either with Georgetown and Kansas State, not to mention tough mid-majors like Charlotte and Northeastern. At least four or five of these teams should be capable of winning this tournament, and none of the eight will be a pushover, making this one of the most competitive early-season tournaments in college basketball this year.
1. Maui Invitational
The Maui Invitational is clearly the best of all the early-season tournaments for two main reasons. First, they’ve somehow found a way to have tournament games played on campus before the real tournament starts, which is unique. Second, there are three top-25 teams participating in Syracuse, Gonzaga, and Baylor, which is not something the other eight-team tournaments can say. Gonzaga and Baylor are likely to meet in the semifinals with the winner most likely facing Syracuse in the finals, and it’s going to be hard for any of the other tournaments to top a championship game like that. Outside of the host Chaminade, the ancillary teams in Maui are quite solid in Arkansas, Cal, Minnesota, and Dayton. All of them will challenge the tournament’s three favorites on their way to the final, which will make the Maui Invitational the best college basketball tournament until the big one next March.