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2015 CBE Hall of Fame Classic: Primer And Bracket

As the college basketball offseason—and summer—drags on, scheduling news provides fans with a little taste of what's to come between November and March. In this series, Blogging the Bracket's Chris Dobbertean examines this season's exempt tournaments, providing facts that will probably only be interesting to him. For the fields that will announce their brackets in August, Chris will provide his own suggested bracket for the purposes of later mocking. Most holiday tournaments take place in noted vacation destinations, but not today's, even if Kansas City is an excellent city to visit.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

To catch up on all of the posts in this series, visit the 2015-16 Early Season Events hub.

What is it?

The CBE Hall of Fame Classic (official website)

Where and when is it?

The four host schools will play at Kansas City's Sprint Center on Monday, November 23rd and Tuesday, November 24th, while the limited set of announced on-campus games are set for the first week of the season. (Update 08/09/2015) There will not be a single subregional for the visitors as in the past. Instead, the four teams will play a total of three games based on the schedule released on August 6th. UMES and Wofford will play two, while Columbia and Fairfield will only participate in one.

When did this event begin?

The CBE Hall of Fame Classic has gone through name, arena (though constantly in Kansas City), and even management changes since its first edition in 2001. Back then, Missouri claimed the first edition of what was then known as the Guardians Classic, defeating Iowa in a thrilling 78-77 final. The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), the tournament's sponsor came up with its original title to honor its membership, the guardians of the game.

Over its first few seasons, the Guardians Classic format generally matched that of the NIT Season Tip-Off, with regional winners advancing to semifinals and a final in Kansas City. There were slight tweaks to this based on the number of participants. In 2002, only eight teams entered, so regional final losers Furman and IUPUI joined Creighton and Notre Dame in the semifinals, with each mid-major taking on the power conference team it didn't visit during the Kansas City round. In 2003 and 2004, there were only three regionals, so one runner-up ended up joining the hosts at Municipal Auditorium.

The 2006 tournament, the first under the "CBE Classic" name was the penultimate edition with non-guaranteed places in Kansas City. That ended in part because of Air Force's win in the Stanford regional on the way to a third-place finish that saw the Falcons fall to Duke (who lost to Marquette in the final) and defeat Texas Tech. Those results helped keep Air Force on the bubble for most of that season, before they ended up in the NIT semifinals.

The Falcons' success and Gardner-Webb's win at Kentucky in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in 2007 led to the end of non-host schools' chances of advancing to main tournament sites in events not named the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Since 2008, the four host schools have been guaranteed a place in Kansas City. Each welcomes two mid-majors to their buildings before those visiting schools meet at a pre-determined site for a "subregional." In most editions, eight visitors were involved, with each playing a single host school before being separated into a pair of four-team round-robin subregionals. Based on Wofford's schedule, it looks like the visitors will play at two host schools before playing one home game and one away contest against teams from their group.

The first edition of this event was played at Kemper Arena, while venerable Memorial Auditorium was home for the 2002 through 2006 editions. The Sprint Center, which includes the College Basketball Experience Hall of Fame facility, became the event's new host upon its opening in 2007.

Gazelle Group ran this event on behalf of the NABC from its inception up until the 2012 tournament, when Blue Ridge Sports and Entertainment took over.

Will it be on TV?

The games in Kansas City will appear on an ESPN outlet or ESPN3. On-campus games will be telecast based on the home team's media contracts, so it's possible for Northwestern's home games to appear on BTN and Kansas State's on FS Midwest. The subregional might be streamed, depending on the host.

Jog my memory. Who won in 2014?

Maryland dispatched Iowa State by a 72-63 count in a final that was pretty shocking at the time.

Who is participating in 2015?

The Kansas State Wildcats (Big 12), Missouri Tigers (SEC), North Carolina Tar Heels (ACC), and Northwestern Wildcats (Big Ten) are the four host teams. Based on Kansas State's website, the Columbia Lions (Ivy) and UMES Fighting Hawks (MEAC) are two of the (likely) four visitors, while the Wofford Terriers' (SoCon) schedule indicates they are participating and Fairfield Stags (MAAC) appears on Northwestern's slate.

Have any of these teams played in this event before?

The CBE Hall of Fame Classic works hard to get local teams to Kansas City, so K-State will be making its second trip and Missouri its fifth. The two former Big 12 rivals have combined for a total of 16 wins and four losses in their appearances with Mizzou claiming two titles. However, this will be the first time the pair have participated at the same time. On the other hand, this will be the first appearance for either North Carolina or Northwestern. In the case of the Tar Heels, that's a mildly surprising fact, considering the program's historic ties to the Kansas Jayhawks.

Among the visitors, Columbia's hopes of advancing to the 2006 semifinals in Kansas City were rudely ended by Duke, who doubled the Lions up in the first round in Durham.

Have any of these teams met in other recent exempt tournaments?

Kansas State and Missouri both played in Maui last season, but the former rivals' paths did not cross. Also in 2014, our two presumed visitors met in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, an event also run by Blue Ridge that looks dead for this season. Wofford defeated Fairfield 54-36 in a slugfest in that event's Bridgeport subregional. (Interestingly, Columbia's last exempt event appearance, their first since the 2007 NIT Season Tip-Off, came in the 2012 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.)

Mizzou handled Northwestern in the 2013 Las Vegas Invitational, while Fairfield missed UNC in that season's Hall of Fame Tip-Off, in which both schools were in the host Naismith Bracket. The Stags and Kansas State were in separate regionals in the 2012 NIT Season Tip-Off, while Missouri defeated the MAAC squad on the second day of the 2008 Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Going even further back, Kansas State took out UMES in a Las Vegas Classic on-campus game in 2006.

So, what would your ideal brackets look like?

Look for the two local participants to be separated, on the off chance that the one paired against UNC is able to pull off what would be a rather big upset-the Tar Heels will head to Kansas City an overwhelming pick to go 2-0. On the flip side, Northwestern really needs to pick up a pair of wins, considering Chris Collins is relying on this event to boost his team's non-conference schedule, as the Wildcats are again on a quest to earn their first-ever NCAA bid.

This projection, therefore, separates the two local teams, and the pair of teams sharing a nickname and main color, if only so we don't have to hear "I'm picking the Wildcats" jokes.

I will make tired journalism school jokes about the second matchup below, however.

North Carolina-Kansas State

If the list of visiting schools is accurate, defending SoCon champ Wofford will anchor the subregional. Fairfield, which struggled in the MAAC last season, and Columbia, left in Harvard's and Yale's wakes in the Ivy, will look for this event to springboard a renaissance. Meanwhile, UMES went through one last year, contending in the MEAC after spending many seasons as an afterthought or punchline.

I've separated Fairfield and Wofford, since they met last season to create these pairings.



I'll compare this bracket to the real thing once it's released.

Tomorrow, this series rolls on with a look at a tournament that is aiming to replace Maui as the most prestigious event on the holiday calendar.

So, what does the actual bracket look like?

(Updated 07/27/2015) Once again, CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein broke the news via Twitter. The organizers paired the two local teams together, meaning one will likely meet heavily favored North Carolina in the final:

North Carolina-Northwestern
Missouri-Kansas State

You can expect the Tigers and Wildcats to meet in the semifinal nightcap on the evening of Monday, November 23rd.

(Update 08/09/2015) Ignore all of that I wrote about the subregional bracket, as there will only be a trio of three games for the visitors, based on the release on the event's website.

UMES at Wofford
Wofford at Columbia
Fairfield at UMES

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