To catch up on all of the posts in this series, visit the 2015-16 Early Season Events hub.
What is it?
The Maui Jim Maui Invitational (official website)
Where is it?
The cozy Lahaina Civic Center on the island of Maui, AKA the place my parents will move to if they ever hit the lottery.
When is it?
The Maui Invitational is traditionally scheduled for the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which is November 23rd-25th this year. However, with the addition of Maui in the Mainland games, the tournament starts at campus sites on Opening Night, November 13th.
The four Maui on the Mainland teams will convene in Greeley, Colorado on the weekend before the eight main bracket teams convene in paradise—November 21st and 22nd.
When did this event begin?
The first Maui Invitational took place in 1984 with Davidson, Providence, and Virginia joining host Chaminade, then in the NAIA, now in the Division II's PacWest Conference. The Friars defeated the Silverswords in the final. The host's famous defeat of a Cavalier team, featuring Ralph Sampson, in 1982—a game only played because Virginia was looking to play one on the islands on their way back from a tournament in Japan—was the impetus for the creation of this tournament, which expanded to eight teams in 1986.
The event kept the same format from then until 2011, when the "Maui on the Mainland" games were launched. This expanded the field by four teams, who would provide fourth games to the main bracket teams not named Chaminade. Three of the four Mainland teams play two main bracket teams each, while the fourth only plays one. However, this squad is the one that ends up hosting the Mainland team's four-team, two-round tournament.
Will it be on TV?
Oh yes. All 12 games from Lahaina will air on an ESPN network, most likely ESPN or ESPN2, though Chaminade's Monday night quarterfinal usually appears on ESPNU.
Rights for the on-campus games are owned by the home team's media rights holders, so those could appear on a hodgepodge of outlets. It's up to the host school to air the Maui on the Mainland bracket, so perhaps those games will show up as a streaming offering.
Jog my memory. Who won in 2014?
Arizona defeated rival San Diego State in a 61-59 thriller.
Who is participating in 2015?
The main bracket will feature these eight teams:
Chaminade Silverswords (DII, PacWest)
Indiana Hoosiers (Big Ten)
Kansas Jayhawks (Big 12)
St. John's Red Storm (Big East)
UCLA Bruins (Pac-12)
UNLV Runnin' Rebels (MW)
Vanderbilt Commodores (SEC)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (ACC)
At this point, each of the six power conferences sends a team, with the seventh Division I entrant being a strong team from just outside this group, think Dayton and Gonzaga, though both of these teams appeared in 2013, a season the Big East was not represented. Connecticut will fill the non-Power 6 spot in 2016.
One team in this field will enter the season with a title already to its name. On July 13th, Kansas (with a couple of replacements for its international players) claimed the first men's basketball gold medal for the US at the World University Games since 2005.
These are the four Maui on the Mainland entrants:
Austin Peay Governors (OVC)
Cal Poly Mustangs (Big West)
Northern Colorado Bears (Big Sky)
UMBC Retrievers (America East)
The Bears will host the Maui on the Mainland event this season. Therefore, they will only travel to Kansas during the preliminary round. Road trips are rather regional for the visitors: Austin Peay will visit Indiana and Vanderbilt, Cal Poly heads to UCLA and UNLV, while UMBC takes on St. John's and Wake.
Have any of these teams played here before?
Well, Chaminade participates every season...
Oh, you're asking about the others. In a word, yes, since an invitation to play in Maui is one of the most sought after in all of sports, not just basketball. While this season will mark the first ever Maui appearances for both St. John's and Wake Forest, the other five Division I participants have combined for a total of 20 appearances, though they only have four titles to show between them-Vanderbilt (1986), Kansas (1996), Indiana (2002), UCLA (2006).
Indiana survived a challenge from Chaminade in the seventh-place game in 2008, winning 81-79. The Silverswords weren't so fortunate when they encountered Vanderbilt in a consolation semifinal one season later, as the Commodores ran out winners by a 27-point margin.
Kansas and UCLA were both in the 2011 field, which was one of the most marketable early season tournaments ever put together. The Bruins dispatched the hosts by a 32-point margin in the 2011 quarterfinals before falling to the Jayhawks one night later. Bill Self's squad lost the final to Duke, as those two rose above a field that also included Georgetown, Memphis, Michigan (who claimed third over the Bruins), and Tennessee.
If you look at the early years on the tournament's history page, you'll see earlier fields were far more mid-major heavy than more recent ones.
Have any of these teams met in other recent exempt tournaments?
Austin Peay lost to Vanderbilt in a campus-site game in the 2007 edition of the now-defunct South Padre Island Invitational, while Kansas and Northern Colorado, opponents this season, didn't meet in the 2010 Las Vegas Invitational. UNLV did defeat Cal Poly in that event's 2011 edition, however.
Wake Forest could have met UCLA in the 2010 NIT Season Tip-Off, but the Demon Deacons fell to VCU in the Winston-Salem regional final, a result that helped propel the Rams to the Final Four. Indiana won the 2012 Legends Classic in Brooklyn, while UCLA finished third, but the two didn't meet in the semifinals.
So, what would your ideal bracket look like?
One thing that always gives organizers a bit of a headache is selecting Chaminade's opponent because teams aren't necessarily willing to put themselves up against a Division II team playing a quasi-home game, especially since a loss might lead to a pair of games that might not provide the RPI punch a championship semifinal and final would. Given that UCLA got this duty in 2011, I don't think they'll be called upon again.
Big 12 teams have played Chaminade in two recent quarterfinals—Texas in 2012, a game the Longhorns famously lost, and Baylor in 2013. Kansas might be the pick here for that reason. Wake Forest could be another option, considering ACC rival Pitt filled the role last season. UNLV is another possibility. I'm nominating the Runnin' Rebels for this spot for Western TV purposes.
Kansas and UCLA look like the anchors for this season's tournament, with Indiana a close third. Vanderbilt, an NIT team last season, ranks above St. John's and Wake in the pecking order. But, with this being an ESPN event in everything but ownership, TV considerations will be key in creating matchups. So, my bracket looks like this. Note the first matchup, uniting Wake coach Danny Manning with his alma mater. It's a shame Steve Lavin isn't still coaching St. John's.
I'll compare this bracket with the real thing when it's released in August. Tomorrow, we'll head back across the country to look at one of the many events scheduled for Brooklyn's Barclays Center this November.
Update: What does the actual bracket look like?
On Tuesday, the Maui Jim Maui Invitational released its bracket, which placed Kansas and Indiana—not the Jayhawks and UCLA—on different sides.
Here's the bracket file.
Here's how I could see this tournament unfolding almost four months from now. (That still seems really far away.)
Vanderbilt over St. John's
Indiana over Wake Forest (so, no, it's not likely that Danny Manning will face his alma mater this season)
Kansas over Chaminade
UCLA over UNLV
Wake Forest over St. John's
UNLV over Chaminade
Indiana over Vanderbilt, though don't be surprised if the Commodores come through with the upset
Kansas over UCLA
7th/8th Place: St. John's over Chaminade
5th/6th Place: Wake Forest over UNLV
3rd/4th Place: UCLA over Vanderbilt
Championship: Kansas over Indiana
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