While I greatly enjoy the month of March, so much so that I have an entire website built around it, November and December are almost as much fun for me. Some of the most exciting and intriguing matchups happen right out of the gate in college basketball. In many cases, these clashes happen at multi-team events or MTEs. The number of these events have grown since the NCAA eliminated the asinine and competition-killing "two and four rule" in 2006.
Basically, participating in a MTE allows a team to play up to two extra regular season games. Under NCAA rules, a team can play 27 games and an MTE that features no more than four games for a team. That's a total of 31 games, though teams who play in a traditional three-day, eight-team, single-site tourney only end up playing 30. Teams who don't play in MTEs are limited to 29 regular season contests.
Only one team per conference is allowed into an MTE (Boise State and Louisiana Tech played in the NIT Season Tip-Off in 2002, both schools first year in the WAC, but the contracts had been signed before the moves had been made.), and a team can only play in a particular MTE once every four years. For example, Syracuse plays in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic this season. Jim Boeheim will have to find another way to get the Orange to New York City in November until 2013.
While teams, especially those outside of the power conferences, do not seal their NCAA tournament fates in November and December, how they play in MTEs can give them a ton of national attention right off the bat (Butler in 2006-07) or the experience they need to pull off stunners later (Siena in 2008-09). Unfortunately, the chances for mid and low-majors to get this experience is dwindling, as several promoters, fearful of being Gardner-Webb'ed, are going away from the traditional tournament format. In the new world order, power conference teams get to host their mid and low-major brethren, then move onto games against other major conference foes. The low and mid-major teams, meanwhile, get to play against each other at another site--far from the limelight. (Though the teams in the CBE Classic who didn't go to Kansas City last year got to play in Florida, not a bad place to be in late November.)
With that in mind, here are the lineups for this year's MTEs that I've found so far. I've set up another page here with this information that I'll be updating as more information trickles in. I'll talk about each of these tournaments as the offseason goes on, as they all feature very interesting storylines and potential matchups. I'll also try put together my ideal matchups for each and compare them to how the organizers bracket the teams.
Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (Campus sites: Nov. 9-13; New York: Nov. 19-20): Hosts and semifinalists--California, North Carolina, Ohio State, Syracuse
College Basketball Experience Classic (Campus sites: Nov. 15-18; Kansas City: Nov. 23-24): Hosts and semifinalists--Iowa, Pitt, Texas, Wichita State
Las Vegas Challenge Invitational (Campus sites: Nov. 22-24; Las Vegas: Nov. 27-28): (source) Bradley, Illinois, Oklahoma State, Utah
Legends Classic (Dates and sites: TBD): Massachusetts will serve as a regional host, after being moved from the Ann Arbor to Carbondale regionals in the 2008 Coaches vs. Cancer tournament.
Puerto Rico Tip-Off (San Juan: November 19, 20, 22): UAB, Dayton, George Mason, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Kansas State, Villanova, 1 TBD
Paradise Jam (St. Thomas: Nov. 20-23): Boston College, DePaul, East Carolina, Northern Iowa, Purdue, Saint Joseph's, South Dakota State, Tennessee
Maui Invitational (Lahaina: November 23, 24, 25): Arizona, Chaminade, Cincinnati, Colorado, Gonzaga, Maryland, Vanderbilt, WisconsinOld Spice Classic (Disney World: Nov. 26, 27, 29): Alabama, Baylor, Creighton, Florida State, Iona, Marquette, Michigan, Xavier
76 Classic (Anaheim: Nov. 26, 27, 29):: Butler, Clemson, Long Beach State, Minnesota, Portland, Texas A&M, UCLA, West Virginia
Diamond Head Classic (Honolulu: December 22, 23, 25): (unofficial--source) College of Charleston, Georgia, Hawai'i, St. Mary's, UNLV, USC, 2 TBD
I'm still awaiting information about the NIT Season Tip-Off, Great Alaska Shootout, Chicago Invitational Classic, Las Vegas Classic, South Padre Invitational, Glenn Wilkes Classic, Cancun Caribbean Challenge, and Charleston Classic among others. Of course, if any of you have any information about your school's plans, feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail.