The Maui Invitational is getting plenty of attention as the beginning of the 2012-13 college basketball season gets closer and it draws an impressive field, as it usually does. The Legends Classic may be the most anticipated tournament because it will take place at the brand new Barclays center in Brooklyn and will feature two of the best teams in the nation, Indiana and UCLA.
However, the most competitive preseason tournament will undoubtedly be the Battle 4 Atlantis, which will feature eight teams who may be playing in the big tournament in March. Duke, Memphis, Missouri, Louisville, Minnesota, VCU, Stanford and Northern Iowa make up this balanced field.
The bracket for the tournament was announced today. The marquee matchup in the first round would seem to be Duke and Minnesota. Both teams may be Top 25 teams by the time the first polls come out. The game will also feature a healthy Trevor Mbakwe for the first time in almost a year and the debut of a high profile freshman–Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon.
Missouri’s first matchup of the tournament will come against Stanford. The game will be the debut of transfer Alex Oriakhi, who had plenty of preseason tournament success in Maui two years ago. However, expect junior Phil Pressey to assert himself as the alpha dog on the Tigers. The tiny guard will take on a bigger role with the losses of Marcus Denmon and Kim English.
Stanford will debut three talented freshmen with Rosco Allen, Grant Verhoeven and Christian Sanders. All three can knock down jump shots so they should fit right in.
On the other side of the bracket, Memphis will meet VCU in the first round. This is another matchup of teams who could be in the top 25 when the polls come out. The game will be the first chance to see how Memphis’ freshman forward Shaq Goodwin will work with Tarik Black as he looks to have a bounce back season.
Black will match up against VCU junior Juvonte Reddic, who is looking to further improve upon is breakout sophomore campaign. The Rams will again have a Burgess, as they lose Bradford Burgess, but will add his younger brother, Jordan Burgess. The Rams also add freshman shooter Melvin Johnson, which should help to create an inside-out game with Reddic.
The last matchup will feature Louisville against Northern Iowa. If Louisville wants to make a return to the Final Four, Peyton Siva will have to take his game to the next level and sophomore Wayne Blackshear will need to show the promise he displayed in the 2012 national championship game. Look for them to assert themselves against perennial Missouri Valley Conference contenders, Northern Iowa.
It is easy to get excited about these matchups. All of them should be competitive and will carry their own storylines. Now if we could all travel to the Bahamas while watching these games, then that would really be something to look forward to.