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2015 Las Vegas Classic: Primer And Bracket (Update)

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. Only three exempt tournaments take place at the end of the calendar year, with two now scheduled for Las Vegas. Today, I'm looking at the older of this pair.

David Butler II-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 Las Vegas Classic

Don't confuse this event with the Las Vegas Invitational, which is held during Thanksgiving weekend in the same arena.

Where and when is it?

Orleans Arena will host the eight participants, who will play a pair of split-bracket tournaments on Tuesday, December 22nd and Wednesday, December 23rd. The four visitors' bracket teams will play two games apiece on the home floors of host schools earlier in December.

When did this event begin?

The first Las Vegas Classic took place in December of 2001. Cincinnati went 4-0 to claim that event's crown, which saw each of the eight participants (Akron, UIC, ULM, Mississippi State, Purdue, Richmond, and Texas A&M also took part) play one game on-campus and three at Valley High School, a format followed by the earliest versions of the Las Vegas Invitational.

It looks like the December event took a few years off (considering searches for "Las Vegas Classic" for 2002 and 2003 result with info on the November event) reappearing in 2004 with a confusing format featuring six participants who all played two on-campus games and two in Vegas. The split-bracket format was established in 2005, though the visitors' bracket didn't technically exist then due to a reduced field. The 2006 event, won by Kansas State, was the first to take place at Orleans Arena, which first hosted the Las Vegas Invitational one month earlier.

Will it be on TV?

Fox Sports recently took over the management of both the Las Vegas Invitational and Classic, events it first telecast last season. However, unlike the Invitational, only the second night of the Las Vegas Classic is likely to be aired on Fox Sports 1 or 2. The on-campus rounds rights revert to the host schools' respective media rights holders, so Colorado's two games are likely to be on Pac-12 Networks, while Penn State's will probably end up on BTN.

Jog my memory. Who won in 2014?

CBI champion Loyola of Chicago defeated eventual First Four entrant Boise State in a miserable 48-45 final to claim the hosts' crown. Abilene Christian, still playing through its Division I transition, won the visitors' title with a 69-61 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Who is participating in 2015?

The Colorado Buffaloes (Big 12), Kent State Golden Flashes (MAC), Penn State Nittany Lions (Big Ten), and 2015 NCAA entrant SMU Mustangs (American) are the host schools for this season. The Canisius Golden Griffins (MAAC), 2015 First Four winner Hampton Pirates (MEAC), ULM Warhawks (Sun Belt), and Nicholls Colonels (Southland) fill the visitors' ranks.

Have any of these teams played in this event before?

ULM's appearance in the 2001 edition is the only one I was able to find.

How about in other Basketball Tournaments, Inc. events?

Surprisingly enough, Kent State accounts for the only two appearances for these eight teams in events formerly run by BTI since 2006. The Golden Flashes were a host school for the Chicago Invitational Challenge in 2007 and the South Padre Invitational a year later.

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

Hampton was not assigned to visit SMU in the 2012 Corpus Christi Classic. The Pirates and ULM were also placed in different regionals in the 2007 CBE Classic. So, there is very little exempt history shared by these eight teams.

So, what would your ideal brackets look like?

SMU and 2015 College Insider Postseason Tournament participant Kent State were the two strongest last season, though Colorado participated in the CBI with a losing record. I suspect the Buffaloes and Mustangs will be separated here, with the resulting semifinals looking like this.

Colorado-Kent State
SMU-Penn State

ULM shares co-anchoring duties for the visitors' bracket with NCAA participant Hampton, even after finishing as runner-up to 2014 host bracket champion Loyola in the CBI. (Exempt tournaments are weird, folks.) Nicholls was the weakest of the four last season at 10-19. I went with an in-state matchup for one of the two semifinals.

ULM-Nicholls
Hampton-Canisius

As with the other posts so far in this series, I'll compare these guesses with the real brackets when they are released.

So, what do the real brackets look like?

(Update 08/09/2015) According to releases by Colorado and Canisius, the two brackets are basically flipped versions of mine. In the hosts' bracket, the two power conference teams will meet in one semifinal, while the Louisiana schools are separated in the visitors' version.

Kent State-SMU
Colorado-Penn State

Hampton-Nicholls
ULM-Canisius

(end update)

Tomorrow, I'll switch my focus to the events that already have released their matchups, starting in the Caribbean.

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