To catch up on all of the posts in this series, visit the 2015-16 Early Season Events hub.
What is it?
The Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tip-Off (official website)
Where and when is it?
The Hall of Fame Tip-Off event encompasses on-campus and neutral-site rounds. Unlike the 2K, all eight teams will make the trip to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, which is attached to a casino (though sports betting is not allowed there, prudes). Those games will be played on the Saturday and Sunday before Thanksgiving, November 21st and 22nd. All but one of the on-campus games will take place before the teams travel to the Nutmeg State.
When did this event begin?
This event is the spiritual, if not necessarily actual, continuation of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic played in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame's actual hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts—sometimes as a single game, sometimes as a tournament up until 2010. That year's event, featuring USC, Rider, and New Mexico State, among others was a tournament, but with a more convoluted format than the one launched in Connecticut in 2011.
Since then, eight teams have been invited to play-four host schools, which comprise the Naismith Bracket, and four visitors, assigned to the Springfield bracket. The Springfield teams each visit two Naismith teams, and all eight convene in New England to play out two separate brackets. Typically, these are elimination tournaments, but last season, thanks to the presence of Florida State and Notre Dame, Providence and UMass each played the two ACC teams in the ESPN-broadcast showcase games at the Mohegan Sun.
This year's tournament returns to a pair of four-team brackets for the final weekend of play.
Will it be on TV?
Treatment of the Naismith Bracket games in Connecticut might vary by day because of football. Last season, the two Saturday games were streamed on ESPN3 because of ESPN networks' college football commitments, while the Sunday games ended up on TV against the NFL. All four Springfield Bracket games were placed on ESPN3.
As usual, on-campus games will air on whatever networks own the home team's media rights. For example, Fox Sports 1 and 2 carried Providence's in 2014.
Jog my memory. Who won in 2014?
Since there was no bracket last season, the Naismith Bracket didn't crown a true champion. Providence did defeat both Notre Dame and FSU, however. Northeastern claimed the Springfield Bracket title by defeating Navy and Manhattan in Uncasville.
Who is participating in 2015?
The Florida Gators (SEC), Old Dominion Monarchs (C-USA), Purdue Boilermakers (Big Ten), and Saint Joseph's Hawks (A 10) will play in the Naismith bracket, while the Buffalo Bulls (MAC) and local rivals Niagara Purple Eagles (MAAC) will join the N.C. A&T Aggies (MEAC) and Vermont Catamounts (America East) in the Springfield bracket. The Metro Atlantic is the sponsoring conference for this tournament, so it always sends a team.
Old Dominion and Saint Joe's will host the two Western New York teams, while N.C. A&T and Vermont will travel to Florida and Purdue. The Catamounts' game in Gainesville is the only one of the eight on-campus games that will take place after proceedings in Connecticut wrap up.
Have any of these teams played in this event before?
Since this event is relatively new, repeat trip opportunities have been limited. Old Dominion and Vermont both participated in 2011, however. The Monarchs went 2-2, losing to Kentucky in the final after topping USF in the semifinals, but they bookended that performance with a 1-1 record in on-campus games, defeating LIU-Brooklyn and losing to ... Vermont. The Catamounts also were .500 in their first appearance—topping MAAC rep Marist in the Springfield bracket semifinal before falling to LIU, falling at USF in their season-opening game in Tampa.
Have any of these teams met in other recent exempt tournaments?
Saint Joseph's lost to eventual champ Purdue in the 2009 Paradise Jam semifinals. The two also participated in the Old Spice Classic in 2013, but did not meet. Florida embarrassed N.C. A&T by a 105-55 score in a round-robin that started the 2010-11 season.
Purdue was a host team for the 2012 2K Classic and Niagara was a visitor, but the two didn't play.
Buffalo and Niagara, regional rivals, play regularly, which is likely why they were not assigned to face each other in Uncasville.
So, what do the brackets look like?
Florida and Purdue are the two big names in the Naismith bracket, so they naturally were placed in separate semifinals. However, the Boilermakers, and NCAA team, and Old Dominion, who reached the NIT semifinals, were the two strongest squads last season. However, those two will meet in one semifinal, with the Gators taking on Saint Joseph's in the other.
Buffalo, the field's second NCAA team, was assigned N.C. A&T, which struggled in the MEAC last year, while Niagara, not exactly a MAAC world-beater in 2014-15, takes on a Vermont team that finished second in the America East last time around.
I can't really argue much with those pairings, so I won't.
Here's a link to the full schedule.
Tomorrow's post focuses on yet another Las Vegas event.
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