More Early Season Event News/Speculation: Bringing A Big East Focus

WASHINGTON - MARCH 19: Head coach Mick Cronin of the Cincinnati Bearcats watches from the bench during their 69-58 loss to the Connecticut Huskies during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Verizon Center on March 19, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Thanks to a press release on Marshall's athletic website and an e-mail from Ryan Raffensperger, editor of the Mount St. Mary's-focused The Mount Fan Blog, I have a bit more information about some round-robin events slated for the 2011-12 season. Two of these feature previously unaccounted for Big East teams, which means the final slot for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off is likely also filled, barring something crazy happening. More after the jump...

Per Marshall's site, the Thundering Herd and Cincinnati will play a home-and-home series in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons through a pair of five-team exempt events. This year's edition will see the two meet at Fifth Third Arena, while next season the focus of the "final" shifts to Charleston, West Virginia. Alabama State (SWAC), Jacksonville State (OVC), and Northwestern State (Southland) will join the Bearcats and Thundering Herd in the first round-robin.

Florida and Ohio State close their pair of MTEs this November, with the decisive matchup between the two shifting to Columbus. The five-team field features an in-state rival for each anchor, as North Florida (Atlantic Sun) and Wright State (Horizon) are involved, with Jackson State (SWAC) the only outlier, though the Tigers did lose to Florida in the First Round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

On the other hand, I have yet to find anything official about four of the events Raffensperger mentioned.

Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt) and Montana (Big Sky) are slated to host multi-team events, most likely of the four-team, three-game variety, while Michigan State will take part in a five-team one. According to White and Blue Review's Missouri Valley schedule page, Evansville may be one of the four clubs to visit the Breslin Center for it.

As for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, I speculated in my original early season event post that Louisville would be the eighth team in the tournament, since Rick Pitino was going to coach the Commonwealth's national team over the summer. That deal is now off, thanks to the NCAA's definition of a foreign trip. (Basically, Puerto Rico doesn't count, even if they do have their own national team.) In any case, my guess was incorrect, as the Cardinals look likely to anchor a five-team MTE of their own.

But that doesn't mean we don't have a good idea of who that final team headed to San Juan is. Follow my logic...

  • After my last update, 13 of the 16 Big East teams were tied to an event.
  • Two of those, Cincinnati and Louisville, are now in an event (or close to it).
  • By process of elimination, the lone remaining Big East team, Pittsburgh, must be headed to San Juan, unless of course, the conference decides NOT to send a team to the event it sponsors, or there are more moves going on behind the scenes.

All that we're waiting for at this point is a formal announcement.

Other MTE tidbits...

Per the Early Season Tournament thread at GopherHole.com, seven of the eight teams for the Great Alaska Shootout are in place, with UC Irvine (Big West), San Francisco (WCC), and Southern Mississippi (C-USA) joining the original quartet.

Baylor, who withdrew from the Charleston Classic with no fanfare, appear to be headed to the Christmas-time Las Vegas Classic, alongside West Virginia and Missouri State, according to BaylorFans.com. This shift helps the Bears from a roster perspective, as Perry Jones III would return from his NCAA-mandated suspension in time for the trip to Nevada, and transferring guard Gary Franklin should be eligible as well, since the event will take place after the end of the fall semester.

Two of the four "Maui on Mainland" teams are confirmed. Kansas will host CAA doormat Towson, while UCLA will entertain the Sun Belt's Middle Tennessee.

As always, please e-mail me any information you run across (the NIT Season Tip-Off and Legends Classic are particular black holes right now).

The 2011 Early Season Event page is updated with the info from this post.

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