By now you know that the 2011 Maui Invitational may very well be the most loaded early season tournament field of all time, excepting the four teams who will play in the tacked on "Maui on the Mainland." Naturally, the event will take a step back in 2012, but it's not much of one, at least according to a tweet courtesy of CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman.
The seven teams headed to the islands to join host Chaminade are
- North Carolina, probably because all of the other bluebloods were invited in 2011 and Duke's presence blocked them anyway, as rules permit only one team from a conference in an exempt event
- Texas, among the best programs to never win a National Title
- Illinois, see Texas above
- Butler, I seem to remember this team playing in consecutive National Championship games recently
- Marquette, a team out of the Big East that refuses to be overlooked/underestimated
- Mississippi State, perennial SEC West contender, not that that has meant much over the past couple of seasons
- USC, second fiddle to UCLA, but a team that should be fairly competitive in the new Pac-12.
So, if you don't get the opportunity to go to Maui this Thanksgiving week, get your travel budget ready for a costly trip to the islands one year later.
Keep in mind that North Carolina and USC could meet this Thanksgiving weekend, as part of the Las Vegas Invitational, noted on the 2011 Early Season Events page.
A second item of note that dropped last night relates to conference expansion. Kraig Williams writes for KSL.com that the WAC has found a 10th member, at least outside of football. The Texas-Arlington, currently in the Southland Conference alongside future WAC members Texas-San Antonio and Texas State, look set to also jump ship. The move could become official as soon as July 14th, this Thursday, as the University of Texas Board of Regents is slated to vote on the shift then.
Williams points out that the addition of the Mavericks would create some geographic balance in the reconfigured WAC.
For the WAC the move would bring the conference to an even 10 members in non-football sports and will break up the conference geographically to ease travel burdens on schools located at the edges of the sprawling conference. The divisions would likely be broken up between north and south with UT Arlington joining Texas State, UT San Antonio, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech in a southern or eastern division and Utah State, Denver, Idaho, San Jose State and Seattle comprising a western or northern division.
When UT Arlington's move becomes official, I will update the Conference Changes for 2012-13 page with the revamped Southland and WAC rosters.