Last week, ESPN.com ran a series of non-conference schedule analyses, broken down by league--an interesting exercise, one I probably would have attempted on my own if I had a bit more time.
One thing that struck me as I was reviewed these 13 posts was the number of games scheduled between teams who happened to already be in the same early season tournament field, particularly in events of the three-day, eight-team, bracketed variety. Now, in a perfect world, this would be something I'd complain about (Can't these schools be more creative with scheduling?; You better hope 'Team A" isn't going to be terrible this year, because you may end up playing them twice...), but given how difficult college basketball scheduling has become over the past decade, this post merely serves as an exercise in curiosity as the season approaches. Besides, simple math means it's not possible for all tournament matchups to actually happen.
Sometimes rematches are unavoidable, and the issue has cropped up in a more limited fashion in the recent past. I witnessed an example myself back on Thanksgiving weekend of 2008 when Gonzaga defeated Tennessee by nine in the final of the Old Spice Classic. The Bulldogs eventually got to complete a season sweep of the Vols, as they won their regularly-scheduled meeting in Knoxville (in overtime) on January 7.
A season later, the South Padre Invitational offered the real possibility of back-to-back meetings between Richmond and Old Dominion. The two teams were scheduled to meet at the Robins Center on December 2, but looking at the bracket for that year, there was the strong possibility the two Virginia powers could have met in the Texas event's final four days earlier. This doubleheader didn't come to pass, however, as the Monarchs lost to Missouri by 5 in their semifinal, which set up a third-place game with Mississippi State. Meanwhile, the Spiders won the tournament title by defeating the Tigers, 59-52.
This season, the organizers of the South Padre Invitational, Basketball Tournaments, Inc., faced a similar dilemma, as they landed Northern Iowa and Iowa State as host schools. The Panthers and Cyclones play each season, with this year's meeting set for November 30 in Ames, Looking to prevent an early meeting of the two teams, Basketball Tournaments, Inc. structured the event so the two don't meet. Instead, UNI and Iowa State will both face Providence and Rice in Texas, while the Friars and Owls won't meet during the event.
But there are still plenty of potential duplicate matchups, with one being guaranteed. This season's 2K Sports Classic, the event that took the longest to fill up, is guaranteed to feature the second game of the season between William & Mary and Liberty. The two meet in Lynchburg on November 20 during the event's subregional round, a mere six days after the two meet in a previously-scheduled game in Williamsburg.
In eight-team bracketed events, I counted 14 possible repeat matchups. Nine of these feature teams that are on the opposite sides of a field, meaning they could only meet on the final day of the event. (Updated on 10/13 to reflect the fact that I earlier flipped the two halves of the Battle 4 Atlantis bracket.) Curiously, two of these contests involve Western Kentucky.
- St. Joseph's at Western Kentucky (Nov. 11): Charleston Classic
- UCF at Florida State (Nov. 14): Battle 4 Atlantis
- VCU at Western Kentucky (Nov. 23): Charleston Classic
- Northwestern at Georgia Tech (Nov. 29): Charleston Classic: Given that ESPN owns the Charleston Classic and airs the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, you'd think it wouldn't have paired these two in that annual event, even if the two met in Evanston last season.
Harvard at Connecticut (Dec. 8):Battle 4 Atlantis
- Memphis at Georgetown (Dec. 22): Maui Invitational
- Saint Louis at New Mexico (Dec. 31): 76 Classic
- Virginia Tech at Oklahoma State (Dec. 31): NIT Season Tip-Off
- Maryland at Temple (Jan. 21): Puerto Rico Tip-Off
The other seven potential matchups are a bit more likely, as the two teams are on the same side of bracket. In fact, I'd say three or four of these contests have a better than 50 percent chance of being repeated.
- Western Michigan at Purdue (Nov. 23): Puerto Rico Tip-Off This one isn't quite as likely, as the Broncos face a stern test, A-10 power (and MAC football rival) Temple, while the Boilermakers take on Metro Atlantic co-favorite Iona.
- New Mexico State at Southern Miss (Dec. 4): Great Alaska Shootout: Each team should win its respective quarterfinal in Anchorage, as the Aggies take on Central Michigan and the Golden Eagles face UC Irvine.
- Santa Clara at Washington State (Dec. 11): 76 Classic: The Broncos open against Mountain West favorite New Mexico, while the Cougars play a potential toss-up game with Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma State vs. SMU in Dallas (Dec. 28): NIT Season Tip-Off: Even though these two could meet in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden, both will have to win two games in the regionals first. The Cowboys will be favored in the regional they host, though Oral Roberts and Texas-San Antonio are both favorites in their respective conferences. Meanwhile, the Mustangs have to travel to Stanford, where they'll face Colorado State in a tough regional semifinal.
- Tennessee at Memphis (Jan. 4): Maui Invitational: It's very possible these two meet in the consolation semifinals in Lahaina. The Volunteers face Duke on day one, while the Tigers open with a Michigan team that some have pegged as the second-best in the Big Ten. Considering how Memphis coach Josh Pastner doesn't really like playing the scheduled game with Tennessee, I find myself rooting for a second meeting.
There are also campus site games slated for a pair of traditional eight-team bracketed events. Two are scheduled for the Paradise Jam, as Winthrop visit Virginia (Nov. 15) and Norfolk State travel to Milwaukee to play Marquette (Nov. 14). Fairfield, who will battle Iona for the MAAC crown, heads to Minnesota (Nov. 17) in an Old Spice Classic preliminary. In all three of these cases, the opponents would not meet again until the event's final day.
Of course, you can see the full listing of holiday tournaments on the Early Season Events page.
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