To catch up on all of the posts in this series, visit the 2015-16 Early Season Events hub.
What is it?
The Gildan Charleston Classic (official website)
Where is it?
Charleston, South Carolina, at the TD Bank Arena on the campus of the College of Charleston, right in downtown. Having made this trip as a neutral fan in 2013, I cannot recommend it enough, and I only went to the final day of games.
When is it?
November 19, 20, and 22 (the Thursday, Friday, and Sunday before Thanksgiving)
When did this event begin?
2008, as part of ESPN's effort to set up enough tournaments that a team could participate exclusively in ESPN-owned events during a four-year cycle, before starting the cycle all over again. Clemson defeating Temple in the inaugural final. Curiously, despite the fact it was an ESPN event, the first Charleston Classic wasn't actually aired on national TV.
Will it be on TV?
Just like the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, this event was created to expand ESPN's college basketball offerings. Therefore, each game will air on an ESPN network or streamed on ESPN3. Where non-bracketed games appears depends on the ownership of the home school's media rights.
Jog my memory. Who won in 2014?
Who is participating in 2015?
Bradley Braves (MVC)
George Mason Patriots (A 10)
Long Beach State 49ers (Big West)
Oklahoma State Cowboys (Big 12)
Ole Miss Rebels (SEC)
Seton Hall Pirates (Big East)
Towson Tigers (CAA)
Virginia Cavaliers (ACC)
Charleston Classic fields often have more of a regional flavor than other ESPN events. Only the 2011 event failed to include a team from the Carolinas, and Georgia Tech and VCU's made the relatively short trip that season. The 2010 event featured a whopping six teams from North or South Carolina, with neighbors USC Upstate and Wofford meeting for the first time in 22 years in that season's quarterfinals. Plus, George Mason and Georgetown made the relatively short trip south to complete that particular field.
Despite the fact the tournament is played on the College of Charleston's home floor, the Cougars can only participate once every four seasons. They don't have Hawaii's issues with scheduling after all. That doesn't stop them from hosting home games during the event's window, as Charleston hosted Furman on the Classic's Saturday off night in 2013.
Have any of these teams played here before?
George Mason finished fourth in their 2010 trip what could have been called the Mid-Atlantic Classic. Seton Hall, meanwhile, defeated 2011 Final Four participant VCU and the Rams' future A 10 rivals Saint Joseph's en route to the 2011 final, which they lost to Northwestern. Naturally, the seventh- and eighth-place finishers, VCU and Western Kentucky, were the only two teams in that particular field to make the NCAA Tournament.
What about in other ESPN-run events?
This will be the first trip to an ESPN event for three of this season's Charleston participants—Bradley, Towson, and Virginia. The other five have more than made up for the trio, though. This will be the sixth trip to an ESPN event for George Mason, with a third-place finish in the then-Old Spice Classic in Orlando was the Patriots' best finish in those half-dozen attempts. Long Beach State and Oklahoma State have each played in four prior events. The 49ers lost to Kansas State in the 2011 Diamond Head Classic final and claimed third place at last season's Wooden Legacy, and they also claimed their first ever win over UCLA in the 7th place game of the 2009 76 Classic. On the other hand, the Cowboys blew out North Carolina State to claim a shocking 2012 Puerto Rico Tip-Off title, though they couldn't repeat the feat in Orlando one season later, falling to Memphis in the Old Spice Classic final.
Ole Miss's record is unique as it includes in an appearance in an ESPN event that no longer exists. The Rebels finished third in what turned out to be the one-off Cancun Governors Cup in 2010, a season after falling to Villanova in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off final. Indiana State stunned Andy Kennedy's team in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Diamond Head Classic, a result that might have cost them an NCAA bid, had they not defeated Florida to claim the SEC auto bid in March.
George Mason and Ole Miss are the only two Charleston Classic participants to have been in an ESPN-run event together previously. They failed to play in the 2009 Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
OK. What about in other recent exempt events?
Oklahoma State defeated Bradley by 11 in the 2009 Las Vegas Invitational semifinals before toppling Utah in the championship game. The Cowboys were also in the 2011 NIT Season Tip-Off field along with George Mason, but the two were in different regions and never came close to meeting. Going back to 2007, Seton Hall took out Virginia in the final of the now-defunct Philly Hoop Group Classic at the Palestra.
Are there any non-bracketed games?
Three have been announced so far, meaning only two participants have yet to take advantage of the four games available to them under the exempt tournament rule.
On November 27th, Long Beach State will visit Oklahoma State, while Ole Miss travels to Peoria to pay Bradley a visit one night later. On December 2nd, the Atlantic 10's George Mason visits former CAA rival Towson.
Since all three of these games will take place after the trophy is awarded on November 22nd, rematches are possible.
So, what would your ideal bracket look like?
Virginia, which has finished at the top of the ACC standings in each of the past two seasons, is the clear top dog here. After the Cavaliers, the drop-off is rather steep, with NCAA participants Oklahoma State and Ole Miss sitting just above Seton Hall in the Charleston top four.
With so many non-bracketed games, rematch avoidance is going to drive the organizers as they build their bracket, particularly as there aren't so many clear storylines/conflicts among this group. (Well, other than the in-commonwealth rivalry between Virginia and George Mason.) Still, with three non-bracketed games, one half of the field is going to be left with the possible rematch lurking on day two.
These thoughts leave me with a bracket that looks like this.
Seton Hall-Long Beach State
Ole Miss-George Mason
I'll check back
in August (Update 07/20/2015: in July, again) to see how this compares to the real thing. Meanwhile, tomorrow I'll take a look at scheduling possibilities for the 2K Classic in New York.
What does the actual bracket look like?
Once again, Jon Rothstein of CBS has the bracket before ESPN's official release. The actual thing looks like this...
Here's a PDF version.
I did a bit better than I did with the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, as I got the middle two quarterfinals correct, with only Bradley and Towson's positions being flipped. I guess they wanted to limit the possibility of four Ole Miss-Bradley games in a three-year span.
The Cavaliers are the heavy favorite in this one, with the Rebels and Cowboys a possible coin flip matchup if they meet in the semifinals. Here's how I can see this tournament playing out.
Virginia over Bradley
Seton Hall over Long Beach State
Ole Miss over George Mason
Oklahoma State over Towson
Long Beach State over Bradley
George Mason over Towson in a CAA reunion and preview of their December 2nd matchup
Virginia over Seton Hall
Ole Miss over Oklahoma State
7th/8th Place: Towson over Bradley
5th/6th Place: Long Beach State over George Mason
3rd/4th Place: Oklahoma State over Seton Hall
Championship: Virginia over Ole Miss