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2011 (!) Maui Invitational Field Announced And Some 2010 Early Season Event Nuggets And Factoids

Don't look now, but Midnight Madness is actually tomorrow. The wait for the new season is nearly over (and thankfully, I've just gotten past the office bug du jour, so I'm in blogging shape in the nick of time).

The 2010-11 campagin tips off on Monday, November 8, with three games from the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on TV in the DC area (two for the rest of the country, at least for those of you without Directv). Exempt events will dominate the schedule until Thanksgiving, with a second, smaller wave of tournaments arriving on Christmas week.

However, the big piece of news on this lazy October Thursday is the announcement of the 2011 Maui Invitational field

After the jump, I'll have more on the news from the islands, then look at some quirks and statistics about this season's group of early season tournaments.

The Maui announcement featured two significant pieces of information. Believe me, both are something to behold. 

For starters, look at the lineup: DukeGeorgetownKansas, Memphis, MichiganTennessee, and UCLA.

Those seven teams will join Chaminade at the Lahaina Civic Center for the knock-out rounds. That's five former national champions and a couple of teams who arguably should also be in the club. Sure the Wolverines and Bruins have been down of late, and who knows what's going to transpire in Knoxville from an NCAA enforcement perspective, but that's the deepest field I've ever seen for an event like this.

But the 2011 edition also features two significant format changes. From the press release, here's more information about the new 12-team, three-part format, one that will guarantee most participants four games, like the NIT Season Tip-Off and Gazelle Group-run events.

Starting in 2011, the tournament will be played in three parts:

1. Opening Games:

a. Seven games between seven Maui-bound teams and four mainland teams.

b. These games will be played at the Maui-bound teams' home arenas from Friday, Nov. 11 through Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011

2. Regional Games:

a. Four games played between four mainland teams

b. These games will be played at a mainland team's home arena from Saturday, Nov. 19 to Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011

3. Championship Round:

a. The current eight-team, three-day bracket event

b. These games will be played on Maui from Monday, Nov. 21 to Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011.

The four teams participating in the "regional" round will  visit the seven major teams who will travel to Maui. Three of them will play two games, while the fourth just gets one. (So it looks one team will play just three games.) One of those four will then get to host a pair of doubleheaders to complete the event.

It's just too bad they can't have the round-robin on Maui too. Playing four games on the mainland for an event called the Maui Invitational feels, I don't know, a bit tacky, even though there are considerable cost savings involved.

Maybe that's something the organizers can address in the next year. After all, they still have the 2010 edition on their plates!

Speaking of 2010, here are some interesting items surrounding this season's crop of early season tournaments.

In 2009, there were 35 exempt events on the schedule. This season, there will be 37, thanks to the introduction of the Cancun Governor's Cup, ESPN's sixth tournament, and the addition of one more round-robin event.

Just one event from last season won't return, the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach. (According to its organizer's website, it's taking a one-year break, and when it returns it's likely to have a new name.) In it's place, Sport Tours has expanded the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic, which last year consisted of a pair of doubleheaders (featuring four schools with names starting with the letter S), into a six-team exempt event accompanied by a three-team non-exempt round-robin.

That round-robin features one of the biggest quirks of this season's college hoops slate: the second scheduled neutral-site game between San Diego State and IUPUI. The first will take place in Oxford, Ohio on November 21 as part of the CBE Classic.

However, two neutral site Aztec-Jaguar games in the span of a month only earns a tie for the "Scheduling Quirk of the Season" award with Northwestern State and Canisius, who will play a home-and-home in the span of 10 December nights. Yet both of these pairings pale in comparison to the THREE meetings between Savannah State and Central Connecticut State last season (back-to-back November dates in Savannah and Charleston and a January game in New Britain). 

Back to tournament talk...

The Philly Hoop Group Classic, which last season featured a confusing format, like the Glenn Wilkes/Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic, is down to a simple four-team round-robin this season. Rutgers, St. Joseph's, and Fairfield will each get a home game (Norfolk State has to travel to both of their early games), with a final doubleheader at the Palestra.

The Hall of Fame Classic returns to Springfield, with a uniquely confusing format of its own (detailed in this post), which features teams from all three NCAA Divisions. 

This is a change from recent Hall of Fame events, which have traveled around the country and featured significantly different formats. Last season's edition featured two five-team round-robin tournaments. The two seeded teams in each group met each other in St. Louis (Louisville vs. Arkansas and Memphis vs. Kansas) and hosted the three mid-majors (who also played each other). 

As you'd expect, this tournament format has taken off, with six on the schedule for 2010. Louisville, opening a new arena, is hosting one, with Marshall the most likely challenger for the title. The Cardinals' opponent in St. Louis is also at it again, hosting the Razorback Invitational. The Hogs will play their showcase opponent, UAB, in North Little Rock.

Ohio State will be the only BCS-level team to go on the road as part of an exempt event this season, as the Buckeyes travel to Gainesville as part of their round-robin. 

Cincinnati and Dayton will likely play for the title of their tournament with their game played at US Bank Arena in downtown Cincy; Creighton and Iowa State will meet in Des Moines; while Memphis will meet LSU in Tupelo.

Four schools will host round-robins for at least the second consecutive season: Oregon (as a farewell to Mac Court), Illinois State, Hawaii (as the Rainbow Classic is permanently a season opening round-robin with the introduction of ESPN's Diamond Head Classic), and Utah State (who hosts a holiday event for a third season running).

San Francisco is also hosting a round-robin, spanning the New Year holiday, but thanks to creative team selection, it's not exempt. The Dons will welcome two schools who are already signed up to play in exempt tournaments, Colorado State (Cancun Governor's Cup) and Hampton (NIT Season Tip-Off), to play three games. One of the three will be against Division 2 Dominican, so it's likely the Rams and Pirates will be counting their matchup with the Penguins as an exhibition.

Last season, four teams from BCS conferences found themselves without an exempt event (Georgetown, GeorgiaSeton Hall, and Wake Forest). All four are back this time around, but the number of big boys taking a break in 2010 is again a quartet: NorthwesternOregon State (the only Big Six team to go on the road for an event last year), Penn State, and South Carolina. In the case of the Wildcats, the decision to not participate in a tournament is a curious one, considering the lack of heft in their overall schedule. That choice could ultimately cost Northwestern the chance at breaking their Tournament drought.

Here's the breakdown on the number of events and participating teams, along with a look at which teams 1) will have to play true road games and are 2) ineligible to win their event title.

2009-10 2010-11
Total Events 35 37
Round-Robin Events 16 17
Hybrid Events 8 8
Events That Defy Description 2 2
Total Participating Teams 229 (65.8%) 248 (71.5%)
"Big Six" Participating Teams 69 (94.5%) 69 (94.5%)
"Next Six" Participating Teams 47 (75.8%) 50 (80.6%)
One-Bid League Participating Teams 113 (53.1%) 129 (60.8%)
Non D-1 Participating Teams 5 8
"Big Six" Road Teams 1 (Ore. St.) 1 (Ohio St.)
"Next Six" Road Teams 11 (15.9%) 9 (13%)
One-Bid League Road Teams 83 (73.5%) 98 (76%)
"Big Six" Teams Ineligible for Event Title 0 0
"Next Six" Teams Ineligible for Event Title 1 (2.1%) 4 (5.8%)
One-Bid League Teams Ineligible For Event Title 43 (38.1%) 42 (32.6%)
"Big Six": ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC    
"Next Six": A-10, C-USA, MVC, MWC, WAC, WCC    
One-Bid Leagues: The other 19 Division 1 conferences  


The most interesting differences between this year and last (to me anyway)...

The number of "Next Six" conference teams participating increased slightly, but at a price, as four of them will be ineligible to win their event titles this season (compared to just one in 2009, Duquesne). Mountain West favorite San Diego State won't get to participate in the CBE Classic's final rounds in Kansas City, even if they win at Gonzaga in the "regional" round. The same goes for Rhode Island in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. (The Rams visit Pittsburgh for that event.)

Defending MAC Tournament champion (and NCAA first round winner) Ohio has it even worse, however. They'll take part in Thanksgiving weekend's Las Vegas Invitational, where they'll meet Kansas in their first game. Notice I didn't say "semifinal." Unlike the other three events run by Basketball Tournaments, Inc. this season, the LVI won't be bracketed and the second day matchups are set. The Bobcats are locked into a game with Santa Clara on Saturday, meaning they have no chance at grabbing a second Big Six win against Arizona, even if they stun the Jayhawks on Friday evening.

More teams from the one-bid leagues are participating in events this year, but more of them must to travel to do so. On the plus side, while the number of mids ineligible to win their event is almost exactly the same (42 this season vs. 43 last year), the percentage of such teams has dropped.

Eight round-robin events will feature exclusively mid-major fields. Events hosted by Auburn (four teams), Louisville (five), and Oregon (four) are pure record padders for the hosts. The Cincinnati, Des Moines, Gainesville, North Little Rock, and Tupelo events will at least feature one game's worth of drama, but that's it.

Finally, if you've had the feeling that many event fields look familiar, it's not you. Many teams are bouncing between events run by the same promoter. This list is just a sample and isn't limited to the last two seasons, but rather on something I've noticed over the past three or four seasons, especially with ESPN's entrance in tournament organization.

Here's a list of teams who will play in at least their second event run by the same promoter in a three-season span (two-season span in the case of Basketball Tournaments, Inc.). In the case of Gazelle Group and ESPN, I've added a list of teams who fulfilled this requirement in the past few seasons.

Gazelle Group: Duke, Maryland, Michigan, Pitt, Syracuse, Texas (In the past, Michigan State, UCLA)

ESPN: Baylor, Butler, Davidson, East Tennessee State, Florida State, George Mason, Hawai'i, Hofstra, Minnesota, Mississippi, Mississippi State, UNLV, NC State, Northeastern, Oklahoma State, San Diego, Temple, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, West Virginia (In the past, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Clemson, College of Charleston, Iona, Kansas State, Marist, Miami, Penn State, Providence, St. Mary's, South Carolina, USC, Southern Illinois, Villanova, Western Michigan, Xavier)

Basketball Tournaments, Inc.: Bethune-Cookman, BYU, Chicago State, Liberty, Longwood, Mississippi Valley State, Richmond, Southern

If you hear bits and pieces of tournament fields for 2011-12 (other than Maui), but not all eight teams, use this list to make a reasonable guess at filling in the blanks. For starters, Dayton will return to the ESPN fold in 2011 (Orlando) and 2012 (Charleston) before heading to Maui (aired, but not owned by ESPN) in 2013.

The rest is up to you to figure out.