To catch up on all of the posts in this series, visit the 2015-16 Early Season Events hub.
What is it?
The Paradise Jam (official website)
Where is it?
This tournament is played at the University of the Virgin Islands' Sport and Fitness Center on the island of St. Thomas.
When is it?
The Paradise Jam is played over four days before Thanksgiving. All four quarterfinals are scheduled for Friday, November 20th. The quarterfinal losers will play their consolation semifinals on Saturday, November 21st, while the winners will meet one day later. All four placement games are slated for Monday, November 23rd.
When did this event begin?
The first men's Paradise Jam took place in 2001, a year after the women's version tipped off. From 2001 to 2005, the men's event had a different format from the traditional eight-team bracket launched in 2006. During these first five seasons, six teams participated, and they were divided into a pair of three-team pools. Each trio played a round-robin, with matchups for the final crossover games based on placement within the groups.
Now, the format is just a typical "three games in four days" bracket. The interesting thing about it is that the loser of the third-place game between the semifinal losers finished fifth with a 1-2 record, while the winner of the consolation final claims fourth, thanks to a 2-1 mark. Usually, the third-place game loser claims fourth ahead of a team with a better record. Logic prevails!
Will it be on TV?
CBS Sports Network will air the middle two quarterfinals on the schedule (both bottom half games, the top half games are split to bookend the TV picks), the two championship semifinals, and the championship and third-place games.
The non-televised quarterfinals and consolation bracket games are typically streamed on the event's website.
Jog my memory. Who won in 2014?
The Seton Hall Pirates went 3-0 in the Caribbean, topping the Illinois State Redbirds in the title game, 84-80.
Who is playing?
DePaul Blue Demons (Big East)
Florida State Seminoles (ACC)
Hofstra Pride (CAA)
Indiana State Sycamores (MVC)
Norfolk State Spartans (MEAC)
Ohio Bobcats (MAC)
South Carolina Gamecocks (SEC)
Tulsa Golden Hurricane (American)
The 2015 Paradise Jam field features three power conference teams, one team from the American, and a quartet of mid-majors. This event is one of the best in terms of giving mids a shot at claiming the trophy, as you'll see when I discuss the bracket.
Have any of these teams played here before?
DePaul stunned a highly-regarded Northern Iowa Panthers team in a 2009 quarterfinal I followed closely on my phone while traveling to California for Thanksgiving vacation. The Blue Demons finished third that season, picking up a full quarter of their eight wins that season in the Caribbean. Norfolk State was 2011's surprise runner-up. More on that in a bit.
Have any of these teams met in other recent exempt tournaments?
DePaul went 0-3 in the 2010 76 Classic in Anaheim, while Tulsa went 2-1 to finish fifth in the same event. The pair avoided each other. A season later, the Blue Demons missed Indiana State in the Old Spice Classic, even though both sat in that bracket's top half. Oliver Purnell's team did not miss Ohio in another ESPN-run event, falling to the Bobcats in the consolation semifinals of last season's Diamond Head Classic en route to finishing eighth.
Hofstra and Indiana State both participated in the 2009 NIT Season Tip-Off, but did not meet.
Are there any non-bracketed games?
The Paradise Jam was one of the first tournaments to allow non-bracketed games, which led to one of the more interesting results in the history of exempt tournaments back in 2011. On November 14th of that year, Marquette obliterated Norfolk State in Milwaukee by a 99-68 count, in the pair's non-bracketed Paradise Jam game. Just one week later, the Golden Eagles defeated the Spartans again-by just two. A furious Norfolk State rally took them to the cusp of pulling off one of the most shocking results of recent times, but it was not to be.
The Spartans might get the chance to do something similar in 2015. They open at South Carolina on November 14th, according to their recently released schedule.
So, what does the bracket look like?
Here's the PDF version.
The 2015 Paradise Jam bracket is a unique one in that the three power conference participants are all bunched in the bottom half, meaning a mid-major has a rather good chance of reaching the final, though Tulsa—an NCAA bubble team last March—is arguably one of the stronger teams in the field. DePaul, Florida State, and South Carolina were all second-division teams within their respective leagues in 2014-15, but the Seminoles and Gamecocks might be poised to move up this coming season.
Here's my early thoughts on how this tournament might play out.
Tulsa over Ohio
Indiana State over Norfolk State
Florida State over Hofstra
South Carolina over DePaul
Ohio over Norfolk State
Hofstra over DePaul
Tulsa over Indiana State
Florida State over South Carolina
7th/8th Place: DePaul over Norfolk State
4th/6th Place: Hofstra over Ohio
3rd/5th Place: South Carolina over Indiana State
Championship: Tulsa over Florida State
The only change I would have made would have been to move one of the power conference teams, say DePaul, to the top half. That would result in a bracket that looks like this.
Norfolk State-South Carolina
Tomorrow, I'll examine yet another field that's already set and scheduled, the only exempt tournament currently based in New England.
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