To catch up on all of the posts in this series, visit the 2015-16 Early Season Events hub.
What is it?
The Puerto Rico Tip-Off (official website)
Where is it?
Um, Puerto Rico, obviously. Specifically, it's played at the Roberto Clemete Coliseum in San Juan, the tournament's third venue in its nine-year history
When is it?
November 19, 20, and 22 (the Thursday, Friday, and Sunday before Thanksgiving)
When did this event begin?
2007, just after the NCAA abolished the "two in four" rule before the 2006-07 season. It was established as part of an effort to allow teams to participate in four ESPN-owned events during a four-year cycle.
Hold up. What are you talking about?
Will it be on TV?
As ESPN created this event in a drive for more live college basketball programming, yes. Each game will be on an ESPN network or streamed on ESPN3.
Who won in 2014?
Who is participating in 2015?
Butler Bulldogs (Big East)
Miami Hurricanes (ACC)
Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big Ten)
Mississippi State Bulldogs (SEC)
Missouri State Bears (MVC)
Temple Owls (American)
Texas Tech Red Raiders (Big 12)
Utah Utes (Pac-12)
Basically, this field features a whole lot of teams whose names start with the letter "M" or have some shade of red as a prominent color (other than Butler, that is). All five power conferences will be represented, as is the Big East, which is basically the sixth college basketball power league. The American and Missouri Valley, two of the top leagues from the second tier of hoops conferences, are also represented.
Have any of these teams played here before?
Miami, Minnesota, and Temple are all making return trips. The Hurricanes won the first ever Puerto Rico Tip-Off crown in 2007, while the Golden Gophers surprisingly took the trophy in 2010, stunning highly-regarded North Carolina and West Virginia in their final two games. This will be Temple's third participation in nine tournaments, as the Owls have returned as soon as they have been able to under the "once every four years" rule—2007, 2011, 2015. Fran Dunphy's team is looking for its first crown, however, as they finished third in 2011 and seventh in the inaugural event four seasons earlier.
What about in other ESPN-run events?
This will be Missouri State's first appearance in one of ESPN's five tournaments, but the Bears are the exception. Each of the other seven participants in this season's Puerto Rico Tip-Off have participated in at least one ESPN-run event since the end of the "two in four" rule in 2006, with Utah playing only in 2010's Diamond Head Classic. This year's trip to the Caribbean will be the sixth such participation for both Miami and Temple.
The Hurricanes and Owls didn't meet in San Juan in 2007, while Minnesota and Texas Tech missed each other in Orlando in 2011. However, the Golden Gophers defeated Butler in the first round of the 2009 76 Classic in Anaheim. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs claimed the Diamond Head Classic title a season later, after defeating Utah in the first round. Neither the Utes or Butler encountered Mississippi State in Honolulu, though the Bulldogs' fifth-place finish is better remembered for Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey's fight in the stands during Hawaii's win over Utah on day two.
OK. What about in other recent exempt events?
Mississippi State and Texas Tech met in the consolation game of the 2008 Legends Classic, which was then played in Newark. The Bulldogs won a 77-73 game, an early highlight in a season that ended in a surprise NCAA bid, as Rick Stansbury's team only qualified by winning the SEC Tournament, earning a 13 seed.
Oddly enough, the Legends Classic rivals the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in terms of venue changes. I'll talk more about that in that event's post.
Butler and Mississippi State were both in the top half of the 2012 Maui Invitational bracket, but did not meet, as Butler finished second to Illinois, while Mississippi State finished last. Yes, behind Chaminade. The Silverswords stunned Texas in the quarterfinals that season, if you recall.
Are there any non-bracketed games?
None have been announced as of yet. An absence of these makes bracketing a bit easier.
So, what would your ideal bracket look like?
If you were to bracket this tournament based on expectations or, dare I say, seedings, Utah and Butler would be the clear top two, so they'd each anchor a half. Miami and Minnesota would follow in the three and four spots, though you could argue for Temple over the Gophers.
Since a company that's in the business of airing sporting events runs this tournament, expect storylines to play a bit of a role in matchups. With former Pittsburgh and UCLA head coach Ben Howland now in charge at Mississippi State, expect the Bulldogs to get better matchups than you'd figure. Plus, former Minnesota coach Tubby Smith now coaches Texas Tech, providing a nice bit of drama to the proceedings. While Minnesota-Temple might be a good four vs. five quarterfinal matchup, I think the Golden Gophers might be slotted to face the Red Raiders instead.
A Miami-Temple NIT semifinal rematch isn't a bad quarterfinal fallback.
With those thoughts in mind, my ideal Puerto Rico Tip-Off bracket would look like this.
Utah- Mississippi State
I'll check back in August to see how this compares to the real thing. (Update 07/15/2015: or earlier even!)
What does the actual bracket look like?
CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein reported that the matchups for San Juan were all set a couple of weeks in advance of the scheduled bracket release. The actual matchups look like this:
Here's a PDF version of the bracket (Eastern Time).
While my projected Miami-Utah and Butler-Minnesota semifinals are in place, and I predicted the Butler-Missouri State quarterfinal correctly, the rest of the matchups are far different. Plus, Tubby Smith's Texas Tech squad would only face a reunion with his former employer, Minnesota, in a placement game on day three. The Golden Gophers will face Temple in the quarterfinals instead, a matchup that acts as a de facto 4 vs. 5 game in this bracket.
All in all, this is a rather balanced bracket that could play out like this.
Miami over Mississippi State
Utah over Texas Tech
Butler over Missouri State
Temple over Minnesota
Texas Tech over Mississippi State
Minnesota over Missouri State
Utah over Miami
Butler over Temple
7th/8th Place: Mississippi State over Missouri State
5th/6th Place: Minnesota over Texas Tech in the Tubby Smith Special
3rd/4th Place: Miami over Temple in a rematch of their NIT semifinal, with the same result
Championship: Utah over Butler
On Monday, I'll look at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off's South Carolina doppelgänger.