Random And Not-So-Random Thoughts On Even More 2012 Early Season Tournaments

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Weeks ago, I looked at the quirky sides of several the 2012-13 campaign's early season tournaments. As Midnight Madness has arrived, I'm back to review even more.

Several weeks ago, I examined several early season tournaments -- those of the traditional, eight-team bracketed variety -- by reviewing the fates of their 2011 participants, running down their 2012 matchups, and looking at some interesting facts about the fields themselves. Now that the rest of the events have released their fields, I figured that Midnight Madness Day was a good time to wrap this series up. In this post, my focus is on the tournaments that start with campus site games and conclude at what's typically a neutral site (though there is a significant exception this season).

My chronological listing starts after the jump.

2K Sports Classic Benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project

Campus sites: Nov. 9-11; Subregionals: Nov. 16-18, 21; Finals at New York City: Nov. 15-16

In 2011: The final year of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer was not a banner one, as not a single host school managed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Champion Mississippi State and third-place Arizona earned first-round home games in the NIT though, which both promptly lost. (Visitor Valparaiso also lost in the NIT, at Miami.) The Wildcats, who lost to 2012 participant Bucknell, were actually an NIT No. 1 seed. Lehigh, which won three in a row at the Lynchburg Subregional after falling at St. John's in the Regional round, was the only NCAA team in the field, other than District of Columbia which made the Division II tournament.

Hosts and Semifinalists: Alabama (SEC) vs. Oregon State (Pac-12); Villanova (Big East) vs. Purdue (Big Ten)

Visiting Teams: Bucknell (Patriot), District of Columbia (DII, East Coast Conference), Hofstra (CAA), Marshall (C-USA), New Mexico State (WAC), Niagara (MAAC), Northern New Mexico (NAIA, one game only), South Dakota State (Summit), West Alabama (DII, Gulf South, two games only)

Bracket Facts: Alabama and Villanova are the only two host schools to have participated in a previous 2K Sports/Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, and all three appearances occurred when the old "two-in-four" rule was in place and the event became a showcase. The Crimson Tide topped Oklahoma in a matchup of preseason Top 10 teams in 2002, losing to Pittsburgh in 2003. Villanova also participated in 2002, losing to future conference rival Marquette.

Bucknell played in the Syracuse regional in 2004, back when this tournament had the same format as the NIT Season Tip-Off and visiting schools could advance (the Bison didn't).

As for the non-Division I schools, this will be UDC's second participation in this event in a row. West Alabama participated in the Gazelle Group's Legends Classic last season, though their trip to Tuscaloosa for this event is considerably shorter than their visit to Oregon State in 2012. Additionally, the Tigers played a full subregional schedule a year ago.

Campus Site Games To Watch: Bucknell at Purdue (Nov. 9), South Dakota State at Alabama (Nov. 9), New Mexico State at Oregon State (Nov. 11), Marshall at Villanova (Nov. 11), South Dakota State vs. Marshall at Hofstra (Nov. 17), Bucknell vs. New Mexico State at Niagara (Nov. 17)

There is quite a bit of quality among the visiting teams in this event, and Bucknell, Marshall, New Mexico State, and South Dakota State will all have chances at grabbing early quality/name wins even without a trip to New York. Unfortunately, there is a chance one or two of them may come at the expense of each other.

Coaches vs. Cancer Classic

Campus sites: Nov. 8-12, Subregionals: Nov. 16-21, Finals at Brooklyn: Nov. 16-17

In 2011: The Gazelle Group used to organize this event under the 2K Sports Classic moniker, but their contract expired and the NABC switched to Blue Ridge Sports and Entertainment. So, the Coaches vs. Cancer event's history shows up on both the CVC website and the 2K Sports Classic one. In other words, this is a new tournament, but at the same time it isn't... and the same goes for the 2K Sports event.

Hosts and Semifinalists: BYU (West Coast) vs. Florida State (ACC); Notre Dame (Big East) vs. St. Joseph's (Atlantic 10)

Visiting Teams: Buffalo (MAC), Evansville (MVC), Georgia State (CAA), Monmouth (NEC), South Alabama (Sun Belt), Tennessee State (OVC), Western Illinois (Summit, subregional only), Wheeling Jesuit (DII, WVIAC, one game only), Yale (Ivy League)

Bracket Facts: St. Joseph's will only host one official game on-campus, against Yale on November 12th. Wheeling Jesuit visits Hagan Arena for an exhibition tied to the event four nights earlier. That means Western Illinois, who is participating in the Evansville/Oakland City subregional, only gets three games in this tournament. Sorry, Leathernecks!

In terms of history, this will be the first appearance for each of the four host schools, but Buffalo played in the Connecticut regional in 2007, the final year that visitors could advance to the semifinals. The Bulls failed in their goal, but Gardner-Webb, who famously beat Kentucky before facing UConn twice in the span of six days (both losses), did make it to Madison Square Garden.

Campus Site Games To Watch: South Alabama at Florida State (Nov. 9), Tennessee State at BYU (Nov. 9), Buffalo at Florida State (Nov. 12), Yale at St. Joseph's (Nov. 12), Tennessee State vs. South Alabama at Georgia State (Nov. 19)

Unlike the 2K Sports Classic, the campus site games for the Coaches vs. Cancer event leave a little to be desired, and many of these I've showcase, are in fact, a stretch. However, the lack of quality is nothing compared to some of the other events I'll describe later on.

Hall of Fame Tip-Off

Campus sites: Nov. 9-13, 23; Finals at Uncasville, Conn.: Nov. 17-18

In 2011: Four participants from the relaunched Hall of Fame Tip-Off made it to the NCAA Tournament. Champion (and NCAA Champ) Kentucky was no surprise. On the other hand, USF was, especially considering how they looked in losses to Penn State and Old Dominion at the Mohegan Sun. Who knew that they'd go on and win two games in March? On the other hand, Long Island U. and Vermont both needed to win their conference tournaments to earn a bid.

Naismith Bracket (Hosts): Ohio State (Big Ten) vs. Rhode Island (A-10); Seton Hall (Big East) vs. Washington(Pac-12)

Springfield Bracket (Visitors): Loyola (Md.) (MAAC) vs. Norfolk State (MEAC); Albany (America East) vs. UMKC (Summit)

Bracket Facts: The "Hall of Fame" in this event is naturally the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Springfield, Mass., not all that far from the Mohegan Sun. As for the action on the court, the most noteworthy factoid is this: the game between the Greyhounds and Spartans will be the only meeting between two 2012 NCAA Tournament teams in this event.

Campus Site Games To Watch: Norfolk State at Rhode Island (Nov. 9), Loyola at Washington (Nov. 11), Norfolk State at Seton Hall (Nov. 12), Loyola at Rhode Island (Nov. 23)

The two NCAA qualifiers will be looking to create a shock or two on their travels, though the Greyhounds may have a slightly better chance than the Spartans, who lost a considerable amount of firepower from last season's Round of 32 squad.

CBE Hall of Fame Classic

Campus sites: Nov. 9-15; Subregionals: Nov. 18-23; Finals at Kansas City: Nov. 19-20

In 2011: This is another NABC event that switched from the Gazelle Group to Blue Ridge Sports and Entertainment, but without the shared history issue of the 2K Sports/Coaches vs. Cancer split. Last season, Missouri dominated this event, thrashing Notre Dame and California en route to claiming the crown. Three of the four hosts made it to the NCAA Tournament (sorry Georgia), though none of them managed to win a game. Detroit and South Dakota State qualified from the pool of visiting teams, but the Titans and Jackrabbits also failed to earn an NCAA victory.

Hosts and Semifinalists: Texas A&M (SEC) vs. Saint Louis (A-10); Washington State (Pac-12) vs. Kansas (Big 12)

Visiting Teams: Chattanooga (Southern), Eastern Washington (Big Sky), Louisiana Tech (WAC), Santa Clara (WCC), Southeast Missouri (OVC), USC Upstate (Atlantic Sun), Troy (Sun Belt), Utah Valley (Great West)

Bracket Facts: This Hall of Fame event refers to a different building in a different location with a different purpose: the College Basketball Experience and Hall of Fame, which happens to be located adjacent to the Sprint Center, where the finals for this event takes place.

Somewhat surprisingly, for an event that tries to get a local team in each year, this will only be Kansas' second appearance. I remember the previous one well, as I was in attendance to see them defeat Washington (after the Florida-Syracuse game that brought me to Kansas City) and lose to the Orange in overtime back in November of 2008.

None of the other three hosts have participated before, but Utah Valley went 0-2 at the Iowa regional in 2005, when visitors could theoretically make it to Kansas City.

Campus Site Games To Watch: Eastern Washington at Washington State (Nov. 10), Santa Clara at Saint Louis (Nov. 14)

Given the lack of NCAA contenders among the visitors, pickings were slim for showcase on campus games. So, I went with a local rivalry and a meeting of two teams who didn't meet in the Anaheim Classic last season.

Legends Classic

Campus sites: Nov. 11-15; Subregionals: Nov. 19-21; Finals at Brooklyn: Nov. 19-20

In 2011: This tournament was relegated to ESPN3 last season, which was a shame, because as early season events go, you'd be hard pressed to find one more exciting. Oregon State created early national waves by beating Texas in overtime in the semifinals before losing to Vanderbilt in the final by a bucket, then proceeded to destroy all of that goodwill with some bad losses, ending up in the CBI.

The Commodores, Longhorns, and N.C. State all made it to the NCAAs, where the Wolfpack came within three points of National Runner-up Kansas in the regional semifinals and Vandy won a game. Cleveland State won at Vanderbilt in the early rounds and were an NCAA contender for most of the season, before falling to the NIT. Bucknell, the Commodores' other home opponent, also made it to the consolation tournament, topping Arizona before losing to Nevada.

Hosts and Semifinalists: Indiana (Big Ten) vs. Georgia (SEC); UCLA (Pac-12) vs. Georgetown (Big East)

Visiting Teams: UC Irvine (Big West), Duquesne (A-10), James Madison (CAA), Liberty (Big South), North Dakota State (Summit), Sam Houston State (Southland), Southern Mississippi (C-USA), Youngstown State (Horizon)

Bracket Facts: The Legends Classic finds itself in its third different arena in as many seasons (the Meadowlands in 2011 and Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall in 2010). Besides new digs, all 12 teams will be making their maiden appearance in the event. However, UC Irvine, Duquesne, James Madison, Liberty, and Sam Houston State have all participated in their share of Gazelle Group-organized events.

Campus Site Game To Watch: Southern Mississippi at Georgia (Nov. 15)

It's another underwhelming slate of on-campus games, but this matchup between a 2012 NCAA team out of Conference USA and SEC struggler stands out.

Cancun Challenge

Campus sites: Nov. 13-17, Finals at Cancun: Nov. 20-21

In 2011: Not one of the eight Cancun Challenge teams made it to the NCAAs. For a time, it looked like champion Illinois was going to make it, and earn a decent seed in the process, until the team collapsed and Bruce Weber ended up being fired. Runner-up Illinois State did win at Mississippi in the NIT, before falling to eventual champion Stanford in overtime.

Riviera Division (Hosts): DePaul (Big East) vs. Wichita State (MVC); Western Kentucky (Sun Belt) vs. Iowa (Big Ten)

Mayan Division (Visitors): Howard (MEAC) vs. Gardner-Webb (Big South); Austin Peay (OVC) vs. Western Carolina (Southern)

Bracket Facts: None of these schools has participated in the Challenge before.

Interestingly, the two mid-major host schools are the pair that went to the NCAA Tournament in 2012, with Western Kentucky registering a come-from-behind win against Mississippi Valley State in the First Four before becoming Kentucky's first victim en route to New Orleans, while the Shockers were one of two 12 vs. 5 upset victims, falling to VCU.

Campus Site Games To Watch: This is yet another tournament with an underwhelming group of visiting schools (none of the four managed a winning record in 2011-12), so win for an of them would be a significant upset.

NIT Season Tip-Off

Regionals: Nov. 12-13; Consolation Rounds: Nov. 19-20; Finals at New York City: Nov. 21 and 23

In 2011: If you would have told me that champion Syracuse would be the only one of the four semifinalists to make the NCAA field back on November 25th of last year, I would have been a bit surprised, simply because Stanford looked pretty solid in their two games at Madison Square Garden. In the end, the Cardinal ended up returning to Manhattan in March to claim the postseason NIT crown.

In the early rounds, it appeared as though three of the host schools -- the Cardinal, Oklahoma State, and Virginia Tech -- would face stiff competition to make it to the Big Apple. (Again, something that makes this event unique and particularly enjoyable.) In the end, George Mason lost to Florida International before getting a shot at the Hokies, and Stanford handled eventual NCAA qualifier Colorado State. Texas-San Antonio, on the other hand, had Oklahoma State beaten in regulation, before committing some unforced errors that led to an overtime, where the Cowboys prevailed. Oral Roberts, who fell to UTSA by a single point, joined Stanford in the NIT.

Hosts: Kansas State (Big 12), Michigan (Big Ten), Pittsburgh (Big East), Virginia (ACC)

Visiting Teams: Bowling Green (MAC) vs. Cleveland State (Horizon) and IUPUI (Summit) at Michigan; Robert Morris (NEC) vs. Lehigh (Patriot) and Fordham (A-10) at Pittsburgh; Alabama-Huntsville (DII, Gulf South) vs. North Texas (Sun Belt) and Lamar (Southland) at Kansas State; Penn (Ivy) vs. Delaware (CAA) and Fairfield (MAAC) at Virginia

Bracket Facts: Given that the early season version of the NIT is considerably older than all of the tournaments in this list, many of these teams are making a return appearance. However, none have won the title, and in fact, the host schools have not done all that well in previous appearances, to be honest.

Michigan has appeared three times, with a pair of fourth-place finishes in 1995 and 2004 the Wolverines' high-water mark. Pittsburgh did a bit better, finishing in third in its lone visit in 1991. On the other hand, Kansas State and Virginia have one win between them in four appearances, all in the days before the tournament format guaranteed all participants four games. That victory belongs to the Cavaliers, who toppled Old Dominion by three in the first round in 1994. Virginia lost at home to eventual champion Ohio in the next round.

As for the visitors, Fordham has played five games in four NITs and not won a single one, while Lamar lost to Duke by four in Houston in the very first "Big Apple NIT" in 1985, the Cardinals' only showing so far. Penn has one win in three appearances (four games), while Cleveland State, Delaware, and Fairfield have five trips between them with no wins.

Alabama-Huntsville will be the first Division II team to participate in the NIT Season Tip-Off, which tells you how difficult it is becoming for organizers to fill these fields, even in an event where visiting teams, almost always mid-majors given the format, have a shot to play for the trophy.

Campus Site Games To Watch: The Pittsburgh-based East regional stands out, simply because defending Patriot League tournament champion Lehigh would love to stay in the national spotlight by knocking out the hosts, provided they get past Robert Morris, another team with the quality to make it to MSG, in round one. Otherwise, keep an eye on Delaware, who could very well be the second or third-best team in the CAA in the South regional in Charlottesville, and North Texas, featuring Tony Mitchell, in Kansas State's Midwest regional.

Las Vegas Invitational

Campus sites: Nov. 18-20; Finals at Las Vegas: Nov. 23-24

In 2011: Basketball Tournaments, Inc. got the bracket right, setting up a North Carolina vs. UNLV final that resulted in a 10-point win for the quasi-hosts. Both ended up in the NCAA Tournament, with the Tar Heels' run being a bit more successful. Visiting team Mississippi Valley State also qualified, falling (collapsing) in the First Four. As for the other two host schools, the less said about USC's and South Carolina's seasons the better.

Hosts and Semifinalists: Arizona State (Pac-12) vs. Arkansas (SEC); Creighton (MVC) vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten)

Visiting Teams: Cornell (Ivy League) vs. Presbyterian (Big South); Florida A&M (MEAC) vs. Longwood Lancers (Big South)

Bracket Facts: When looking at this season's field, the first glance is that the organizers didn't make the obvious choice in bracketing the quartet of host schools. On paper, Creighton and Wisconsin look like the two most likely finalists, but they meet in the semifinals, meaning Arkansas could be the beneficiary. Also, there's the strong possibility that the games on Nov. 24th will result in a slow-tempo matchup (Arizona State vs. the Badgers) and a higher-tempo one (Bluejays vs. Razorbacks).

In the visitors' half of the bracket, Big South newcomer Longwood may face conference mate Presbyterian on day two in Las Vegas. The pair meet just once in conference play, on January 26th in Farmville. This will be the seventh consecutive year in which Longwood has participated in a Basketball Tournaments, Inc. event, including the 2011 Chicago Invitational Challenge won by ... Wisconsin.

Presbyterian played in the 2009 edition of this tournament, while Florida A&M was in the South Padre Invitational last season. Creighton, meanwhile, won the 2008 Las Vegas Classic.

Campus Site Games To Watch: Cornell's two games stand out, the first because it's a rematch of their 2010 NCAA Second Round win over Wisconsin (Nov. 18), and the second because they could very well upset Arizona State (Nov. 20).

South Padre Invitational

Campus sites: Nov. 18-20; Finals at South Padre Island, Tex.: Nov. 23-24

In 2011: Iowa State, the lone NCAA qualifier in the field, went 4-0, picking up wins over Rice and Providence while in Texas. The event didn't have a traditional bracket as the Cyclones and Northern Iowa, the fourth host school, were scheduled to meet on November 30th in Ames. The Panthers took that meeting and the mythical tournament crown on their way to the NIT.

Hosts and Semifinalists: UAB (C-USA) vs. Illinois State (MVC); Northwestern (Big Ten) vs. TCU (Big 12)

Visiting Teams: Delaware State (MEAC) vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (NEC); Navy (Patriot) vs. Prairie View(SWAC)

Bracket Facts: This will be Delaware State's second participation in the South Padre Invitational, as the Hornets went 1-3 in 2006, while Prairie View played in the Chicago Invitational Challenge last season, failing to win a game. Illinois State and Northwestern have served as host schools in Basketball Tournaments, Inc. events previously. The Redbirds went 0-2 in Chicago in 2007, while Northwestern won the 2009 edition of the same event.

Campus Site Games To Watch: The four visitors will be hard pressed to pick up a win in any of the eight preliminary games, given that their combined 2011-12 record was 35-84.

Hoops for Hope Classic

Campus sites: Nov. 11-21; Finals at Puerto Vallarta: Nov. 23-25

In 2011: Last season, this event was a round-robin hosted by Tulane, who took the title with wins over crosstown rival New Orleans, Alcorn State, and San Diego. None of the quartet made it to the NCAA Tournament or NIT.

Hosts and Semifinalists: Arkansas-Little Rock (Sun Belt) vs. SMU (C-USA); Missouri State (MVC) vs. South Carolina (SEC)

Visiting Teams: Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun), Malone (DII transitional, GLIAC, campus site games only), Milwaukee (Horizon), Rider (MAAC)

Bracket Facts: Alcorn State was supposed to participate in this tournament for the second year in a row, but the Braves withdrew after it was discovered they had double-booked themselves. Alcorn was originally slated to play at Missouri State on the same day they were supposed to play in the subregional round of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Fort Myers.

Division II Malone was recruited to fill the Braves' two campus site dates, but they aren't traveling to Mexico for the finals. The three remaining visiting teams will play a round-robin in Puerto Vallarta instead.

Campus Site Games To Watch: Milwaukee at South Carolina (Nov. 11), Milwaukee at UALR (Nov. 19), Rider at South Carolina (Nov. 19), Rider at SMU (Nov. 21)

Given that South Carolina and SMU are likely to struggle in their respective conferences, they will be on upset alert for their home games (though the Mustangs should handle Malone). Plus, Milwaukee, who will challenge Detroit in the Horizon League this season, won at UALR in Michigan State's exempt tournament in 2011.

Global Sports Classic

Campus sites: Nov. 10-20; Finals at Las Vegas: Nov. 23-24

Hosts and Semifinalists: Cincinnati (Big East) vs. Iowa State (Big 12); Oregon (Pac-12) at UNLV (MWC)

Visiting Teams: Campbell (Big South) vs. North Carolina A&T (MEAC); Jacksonville State (OVC) vs. Northern Arizona (Big Sky)

Bracket Facts: There have been Global Sports Classics before, typically of the four- or five-team round-robin variety. However, in 2008, UNLV anchored an event just like this one, alongside California, Cincinnati, and Florida State. The Runnin' Rebels will hope this edition is a more successful one, as they went 0-2 in their final round games in '08, as Florida State claimed the title with a win over Cincinnati. Curiously, North Carolina A&T also participated four seasons ago.

UNLV naturally gets four home games out of this arrangement and will play in a Las Vegas-based exempt event for the second consecutive year.

Note that Campbell beat North Carolina A&T handily in last season's Creighton and Iowa-anchored Dale Howard Classic.

Campus Site Games To Watch: Three of the hosts made the NCAA Tournament last season and the fourth, Oregon, ended up in the NIT quarterfinals, while the four visitors managed a combined record of 49-77. In other words, don't expect the traveling teams to pull any upsets.

Las Vegas Classic

Campus sites: Dec. 10-19; Finals at Las Vegas: Dec. 22-23

In 2011: Three of the four host schools advanced to the NCAA Tournament, with Baylor reaching the Elite Eight and St. Mary's and West Virginia dropping their first games. The Bears defeated both the Gaels and Mountaineers in their two pre-scheduled games, as the traditional bracket disappeared for the season. Baylor missed Missouri State, which dropped its pair of games against the other two hosts.

Hosts and Semifinalists: Colorado State (MWC) vs. Portland (WCC); Bradley (MVC) vs. Virginia Tech(ACC)

Visiting Teams: Cal State Bakersfield (Independent) vs. North Florida (Atlantic Sun); Georgia Southern (Southern) vs. Mississippi Valley State (SWAC)

Bracket Facts: Bradley makes yet another trip to a Basketball Tournaments, Inc. event, their fifth since 2006. The Braves last visited Las Vegas for the 2009 Invitational, in which they finished third, following a loss to Oklahoma State and a win over Illinois. Similarly, this will be the fourth straight appearance for Mississippi Valley State. In 2010, the Delta Devils handled Georgia Southern in the visitors' bracket of the South Padre Invitational. On the other hand, this will be Cal State Bakersfield's first ever invitation to an exempt event.

Campus Site Games To Watch: North Florida at Colorado State (Dec. 17), Mississippi Valley State at Bradley (Dec. 19)

The Ospreys won at Wyoming in 2010, but a far stronger Rams team will be more of a challenge. As for the defending SWAC champs, they'll look to spring an upset in a season in which they're ineligible for the NCAA Tournament and playing for pride. A win over a rebuilding Braves squad would certainly fit the bill.

Note that Basketball Tournaments, Inc.'s fourth event, the Chicago Invitational Challenge, will not be held this season. At least it managed to hang around longer than ESPN's defunct Cancun Governor's Cup.

As usual, the 2012-13 early season events page is available for easy reference during November and December.

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