Sunday saw three trophies handed out, with two heading to Southeastern Conference institutions.
As expected, Kentucky claimed the Hall of Fame Tip-Off crown, though the young Wildcats had to really work for 35 minutes against Old Dominion. However, Kentucky pulled away late to claim a 62-52 victory in the early game at the Mohegan Sun. The Wildcats turned the ball over 20 times, but the Monarchs couldn't capitalize, as they shot a woeful 32 percent from the field. The consolation game was, um, close. Yes, that's it, as Penn State and USF each managed 17 points in a sloppy first half before slightly picking things up in the second. The result: a 53-49 Nittany Lion win.
Alabama became the third SEC team to claim an early season tournament crown, as they defeated Purdue, 65-56, in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game. The Crimson Tide's defense was too much for the Boilermakers, who struggled from the field all night. Temple claimed third place, thought they needed overtime to get past Wichita State, 78-74. Iona leaves San Juan after picking up two wins, as the Gaels looked impressive in hammering Maryland, 89-63. Colorado finished 7th, thanks to an 81-76 win over Western Michigan.
At the Charleston Classic, Northwestern took a small step toward its first-ever NCAA berth by defeating Seton Hall, 80-73, in an entertaining, close game that wrapped up a tournament that was pretty even from top to bottom. Drew Crawford had 27 on the night, going 11 for 15 from the field, while John Shurna chipped in 19. Herb Pope had a career-high 32 for the Pirates with 10 boards on the side. Third place went to St. Joseph's, who won a shootout against Tulsa, 79-75, the Golden Hurricane's second straight four-point loss. LSU began their week in South Carolina with a loss at Coastal Carolina. They ended it with a fifth-place showing in the Classic. The Tigers defeated Georgia Tech, 59-50. VCU avoided the ignominious fate of going from the Final Four to last place in an exempt event by topping Western Kentucky, 69-64.
Even though the Paradise Jam and Legends Classic will crown champions tomorrow, the opening games for the most prestigious Maui Invitational field ever are the real highlight of the day. I'll take a look at those four games right after the jump.
Maui Invitational Quarterfinals
Michigan Wolverines (3-0, 2-0 vs. Division I) vs. Memphis Tigers (1-0), 3 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
This will be a tremendous test for the Wolverines, who have only beaten two teams likely bound for the bottom third of Division I, Towson and Western Illinois, with the win over the Leathernecks being far too close for comfort. Meanwhile, the Tigers looked like a well-oiled machine in their only game so far, a Tip-Off Marathon Maui on the Mainland contest against a Belmont team that gave Duke the scare of the season days before.
Duke Blue Devils (4-0) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (2-0), approx. 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Blue Devils have faced a high level of competition so far this year. For example, the team that's likely the worst they've played early on, Presbyterian Blue Hose, just won at Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon. On the other hand, Cuonzo Martin's young Volunteers have beaten up on Louisiana-Monroe and UNC Greensboro. I simply don't think they'll be prepared enough for what they're about to face.
UCLA Bruins (0-2) vs. Chaminade Silverswords (2-0, DII), 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
The Bruins have already lost two at home (OK, the Sports Arena) to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee. Plus, there's been the whole Reeves Nelson suspension drama. So, this one isn't an automatic win for Ben Howland's team, especially as Chaminade gave Michigan State a fight in their 2010 quarterfinal, falling by just eight.
Georgetown Hoyas (2-0) vs. Kansas Jayhawks (1-1), approx. 12 a.m. ET (ESPN2)
Much like Duke-Tennessee, this matchup features a team that hasn't been tested at all yet against one that's already been in a high-pressure environment. The Hoyas have two wins, which came courtesy of Savannah St. Tigers and that same UNCG team Tennessee blew out. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks own a blowout win over Towson and a 10-point loss at the hands of a Kentucky team they were likely to struggle with this early on anyway. Kansas has a bit more talent and an experience edge as well, so they should move on in the winner's bracket.
Semifinal picks: Memphis vs. Duke and Chaminade vs. Kansas
Paradise Jam Finals
Championship: Norfolk State Spartans vs. Marquette Golden Eagles, approx. 8:30 p.m. ET (FSN)
The Spartans defeated TCU, 66-53, to advance to an unexpected final, where they'll attempt to become the first MEAC school to win an event like this. Norfolk State won despite coughing it up 23 times, simply because the Horned Frogs couldn't do much offensively with those opportunities, as they only shot 25.4% from the field, hitting just a solitary three on the night. Norfolk State's reward will be a rematch with a Marquette team they lost to by 31 a week ago in one of the Paradise Jam's two on-campus games. (I bet the organizers weren't planning for that.) The Golden Eagles throttled Ole Miss, 96-66, on a night when the Rebels simply had no answers on either end of the court.
Here's the schedule for Monday's other three placement games in St. Thomas.
Legends Classic Finals
Championship: Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Oregon State Beavers, approx. 9 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Expect very little defense in this one, as both teams won absolute shootouts in Saturday night's semifinals. While the guards, particularly Vanderbilt's John Jenkins and Oregon State's Jared Cunningham, will take center stage, keep an eye on the interior play. The Beavers have the players to give Vandy trouble inside, especially with Festus Ezeli out. However, if the Commodores finish better than Texas did Saturday night, Oregon State won't have much of a chance.
Consolation: N.C. State Wolfpack vs. Texas Longhorns, 6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3/Longhorn Network)
Just like in the trophy game, look for this one to also be defense-optional. But there is one caveat to that assumption. Texas turned the ball over 23 times in its loss to Oregon State, while N.C. State actually did a better job of taking care of the ball in its semifinal than Vanderbilt did (13 turnovers vs. 15). Plus, the Wolfpack did a grab 12 steals. Such timely turnovers could give Mark Gottfried's team the advantage.
CBE Classic Semifinals
Missouri Tigers (3-0) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0), 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Tigers and Fighting Irish have combined to win seven games over the past two weeks, with all of them coming at home. In these contests, only Notre Dame has really been threatened, defeating Horizon League favorite Detroit by six in one of this event's regional round games just one week ago. This one could come down to outside shooting. Both teams are good at it, but the Irish have had trouble defending it so far. Plus, the crowd should be on Mizzou's side, unless a whole bunch of Kansas fans decide to show up to protest their departure from the Big 12 (not likely).
California Golden Bears vs. Georgia Bulldogs, approx. 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Golden Bears have very much looked like potential Pac-12 contenders in racking up big home wins over UC Irvine, George Washington, and Austin Peay, particularly on offense. That means a Bulldog team that's been a lockdown defensive unit so far (54.7 ppg allowed) will be strong challenge. Once again, the perimeter could be key to this one, as Georgia hasn't been particularly adept from outside this season. Cal, on the other hand, doesn't rely on the three, but they can hit them when necessary.
Final pick: Missouri vs. California
As always, please feel free to discuss today's action in the comments.