While the 23rd-ranked Xavier Musketeers' fans were outnumbered in the HP Field House, they were the ones who ended up celebrating after blowing out their neighbors and former Atlantic 10 rival Dayton Flyers 90-61 in the championship tilt in Lake Buena Vista. While the Flyers had hope at halftime, as they trailed by only eight at the break, a 21-0 Musketeer run ensured the only mysteries would be the final margin and foul count (55). Xavier's Jalen Reynolds and Trevon Bluiett and Dayton's Scoochie Smith made the all-tournament team from the finalists.
But surprisingly the MVP went to the star of the third-place team. The Monmouth Hawks' Justin Robinson set a tournament scoring record, 77 points in three games with 27 of those coming in this afternoon's 87-77 third-place game victory over the USC Trojans. That result avenged one of the Hawks' two losses on the season, as USC topped Monmouth 101-90 on November 16th in one of this tournament's two bracketed games.
The day began with a blowout and closed with a near cliffhanger. The Iowa Hawkeyes weren't fazed by the seventh-place game's 9 a.m. Central tip, as they blew out the Wichita State Shockers pretty much from the beginning. Jarrod Uthoff led the Hawkeyes with 22, though late threes from Peter Jok and Nicholas Baer helped push Iowa late when the Shockers started to chip away. Even though Gregg Marshall's squad missed Fred VanVleet for the entire tournament and Anton Grady today after his scary fall late in Friday's game, I'm not sure their presence would have helped.
I didn't attend the last game of the day, the fifth-place contest surprisingly won by Alabama Crimson Tide over the 17th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 74-73. My mistake, as it turned out to be the game of the day. It was a tight contest throughout, and the Tide got the win when the Fighting Irish's Demetrius Jackson's layup miss at the buzzer meant Notre Dame had no answer for Retin Obashoan 's winner on the other end.
Directv Wooden Legacy
Denzel Valentine claimed the tournament MVP, as his Michigan State Spartans, ranked third in the nation, pulled away from Kris Dunn and the Providence Friars very late. Sparty picked up a 77-64 win the championship game, a margin that didn't reflect the game's actual competitiveness. Foul counts, particularly on the Providence side, didn't help matters. Valentine scored 17 for MSU, though Bryn Forbes led the Spartans with 18, while Dunn scored 21 for the Friars and Ben Bentil contributed 20.
The no. 11 Arizona Wildcats defeated the Boise State Broncos for the second time in a little more than a week to finish third, 68-59. Sean Miller's team was able to win relatively easily even with Kaleb Tarczewski out injured, with five players hitting double figures.
The Evansville Aces trailed the UC Irvine Anteaters by four at halftime of the fifth-place game, but overwhelmed the host Big West's representative in the second half to run out 75-56 winners. Egidijus Mockevicius dominated for Evansville, scoring 21 and grabbing 16 boards on the afternoon.
The ACC claimed the most holiday tournament crowns, with five. The Big East followed with a quartet, while the Big 12 and Big Ten each claimed three. Conference USA took two titles in weakened fields, while the American, SEC, and Big Sky each claimed one more than the Pac-12 (and the remaining 23 conferences, for that matter). Here's the breakdown of the winners.
ACC (5): Duke Blue Devils (2K Classic Benefitting Wounded Warrior Project), Miami Hurricanes (Puerto Rico Tip-Off), Virginia Cavaliers (Gildan Charleston Classic), North Carolina Tar Heels (CBE Hall of Fame Classic), Syracuse Orange (Battle 4 Atlantis)
Miami and Syracuse were the revelations in this group, though Virginia had a bit to prove in Charleston after falling at George Washington in the Tip-Off Marathon. The Cavaliers certainly got themselves back on track, as they dominated the competition in South Carolina. Florida State were favored to add to the ACC's title count at the Paradise Jam, but Hofstra upset the Seminoles in the quarterfinals.
Big East (4): Marquette Golden Eagles (FanDuel Legends Classic), Creighton Bluejays (Men Who Speak Up Main Event), Villanova Wildcats (NIT Season Tip-Off), Xavier Musketeers (Advocare Invitational)
Marquette's win in Brooklyn was a surprise, though the two 2015 NCAA teams in that field—LSU and North Carolina State—did themselves no favors in the semifinals. Creighton, meanwhile, won an event that featured teams likely to finish near the bottom of the ACC and Big Ten, so don't read too much into the Bluejays success in Las Vegas. It's a similar story for Villanova, as this season's other NIT Season Tip-Off host schools look remarkably weak. You can't argue with Xavier's dominating performances in Orlando, however.
Big 12 (3): Kansas Jayhawks (Maui Jim Maui Invitational), West Virginia Mountaineers (Las Vegas Invitational), Iowa State Cyclones (Emerald Coast Classic)
Based on their rankings, Kansas and Iowa State did what was expected, while West Virginia exceeded expectations in the desert. However, it looks like California was overrated heading into the Las Vegas Invitational, opening the door for a solid Mountaineer team. Oklahoma State slipped to defeat in Charleston, at the hands of George Mason in the semifinals, a result that deprived the Cowboys of a shot at Virginia.
Big Ten (3): Purdue Boilermakers (Hall of Fame Tip-Off), Maryland Terrapins (Cancun Challenge), Michigan State Spartans (Directv Wooden Legacy)
All three Big Ten winners were favored in their events, but only Michigan State was really tested along the way, and that was in the final against Providence Friars. Indiana's 1-2 trip to Maui was the biggest disappointment for the league.
Conference USA (2): UTEP Miners (Corpus Christi Coastal Challenge), Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (Great Alaska Shootout)
Both squads won mid-major heavy events, with the Miners' win over Colorado State the most impressive from a profile-building perspective.
American (1): Cincinnati Bearcats (Barclays Center Classic)
The Bearcats impressed in Brooklyn, though only final opponent George Washington looked to be an NCAA-level team heading into Thanksgiving weekend. On the flip side, UConn's 1-2 trip to the Bahamas and Tulsa's inability to dig out of one last Paradise Jam hole might do more harm than good over the long run.
SEC (1): South Carolina Gamecocks (Paradise Jam)
The SEC's total is deflated by Kentucky's participation in a round-robin. Vanderbilt's run to the Maui final and Texas A&M's trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game, like South Carolina's win in the Virgin Islands, was a positive sign for the league, as was Alabama Crimson Tide 's surprising 2-1 finish at Walt Disney World (with both wins coming over teams ranked at the time). The Ole Miss loss to George Mason in the Charleston quarterfinals and LSU's defeat at the hands of Marquette in the Legends semis were early symptoms of the return of #SECBasketballFever.
Big Sky (1): Weber State Wildcats (Gulf Coast Showcase)
The Wildcats took a title widely expected to go to either Central Michigan (who slumped to three losses without Chris Fowler), Murray State (Weber's final victim), or Western Kentucky.
Even though three tournaments remain, the ACC's position at the top isn't threatened. The ACC doesn't have a team entered in any of the remaining bracketed events on this year's calendar, and the most titles the Big 12 can grab is four, as Oklahoma will be favored in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.