To catch up on all of the posts in this series, visit the 2015-16 Early Season Events hub.
What is it?
The Advocare Invitational (official website)
Where and when is it?
This tournament is played at the HP Field House at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Florida—AKA Walt Disney World—over Thanksgiving weekend. The quarterfinals are on the holiday itself, November 26th, with the semifinals on Friday, November 27th. Action takes the day off on the Saturday, thanks to college football, and wraps up on Sunday, November 29th.
When did this event begin?
The then-Old Spice Classic launched in November of 2006, as the first of several ESPN-owned and operated exempt tournaments that would be created following the end of the "two in four" rule before the 2006-07 season.
Will it be on TV?
Oh yes. Every Florida game will either be aired on an ESPN outlet or be streamed on ESPN3. Rights for any non-bracketed games revert to the home team's media rights holder, so Monmouth at USC will likely end up on Pac-12 Networks.
Jog my memory. Who won in 2014?
Last season's final was a showdown of perennial powers, in which Kansas defeated Michigan State, 61-56.
Who is participating in 2015?
Alabama Crimson Tide (SEC)
Dayton Flyers (A 10)
Iowa Hawkeyes (Big Ten)
Monmouth Hawks (MAAC)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (ACC)
USC Trojans (Pac-12)
Wichita State Shockers (MVC)
Xavier Musketeers (Big East)
That's not too bad of a group, considering five teams in this field qualified for the NCAAs in 2014, and every single one won a game once there.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference sponsors this tournament, so it annually contributes a team. This will be Monmouth's first chance to represent the league, having switched from the NEC in 2013.
Have any of these teams played in this event before?
The Hawks, Iowa, and USC are the only three entrants making their first trip to the Orlando area of this year's eight. Dayton won the 2011 title, rising above a field that seemed to include among the worst the power conferences could offer that season, while Notre Dame claimed the crown the season before. The Fighting Irish rather infamously held California to five first-half points in their semifinal. Alabama and Xavier both participated in 2009, but didn't play, and Wichita State went 1-2 in a loaded 2008 field.
How about in other ESPN-owned events?
Iowa and Monmouth are the oddballs here, having not participated in any previous ESPN-run tournament, though Notre Dame hasn't participated in any others. Four squads—Dayton (Puerto Rico Tip-Off), USC (Charleston Classic), Wichita State (Diamond Head Classic), and Xavier (Wooden Legacy)—did so in 2014, though none managed to win.
The Musketeers managed to make two visits to Southern California in a three-year span, due in no small part to the Anaheim Classic's rebirth as the Wooden Legacy between its 2012 and 2014 trips to Orange County. (Xavier didn't win in 2012 either.) The Charleston Classic hosted Dayton in 2012, and the Flyers finished fifth.
Alabama defeated Wichita State in the 2011 Puerto Rico Tip-Off semifinal, a rematch of that March's NIT championship, won by the Shockers. Xavier finished in seventh-place in that season's Diamond Head Classic. USC won that tournament's first edition in 2009, while Dayton finished fourth in that season's Puerto Rico tourney. The Trojans also managed to win the first 76/Anaheim Classic back in 2007.
Have any of these teams met in other recent exempt tournaments?
In 2014, Monmouth was one of the CBE Classic regional round opponents Alabama missed. USC, Iowa, and Xavier all participated in the 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis, where the Hawkeyes won an overtime quarterfinal over Xavier on their way to a second-place finish. Later, the Trojans defeated the Musketeers in the seventh-place game in the Bahamas.
Notre Dame trounced Monmouth in a 2012 Coaches vs. Cancer on-campus game, while Wichita State defeated Iowa in that season's Cancun Challenge final. Alabama, Iowa, and Xavier all found themselves in the same half of the 2010 Paradise Jam draw. The Musketeers dispatched the Hawkeyes in the quarterfinals en route to a runner-up finish, while Iowa defeated the Tide, who went 0-3, in a consolation semifinal.
Bama and Notre Dame did not meet in the 2008 Maui Invitational, but the Irish encountered Monmouth in the 2007 Paradise Jam quarterfinals, blasting the Hawks by 43. Monmouth rebounded to defeat Wichita State by nine in the consolation bracket the following day. In the 2006 edition of that event, Alabama's run to the title featured wins over Iowa and Xavier. Finally, USC topped the Shockers in the consolation game of the 2006 Las Vegas Classic.
So, what does the bracket look like?
This field offered some sneaky good matchup possibilities—for example, Alabama-Wichita State, the football rivalry between Notre Dame and USC that rarely hits the hardwood, Gregg Marshall vs. Andy Enfield, and a potential meeting between Dayton and Xavier, bitter rivals that were former mates in the Atlantic 10. CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein found out about the matchups a couple of weeks before ESPN's typical release date. A rematch of the Notre Dame-Wichita State Midwest Regional semifinal seems like a worthy aim for the final on November 29th, and the bracket looks like a proper seeded bracket with that very goal.
Here's a PDF version of the bracket (Eastern Time).
My original projection, written a few days before the matchups were leaked, looked like this. The only matchup I picked correctly was Shockers-Trojans. (And yes, I could have phrased that sentence differently.) However, with USC meeting Monmouth and Dayton hosting Alabama in non-bracketed games in mid-November, the top half of this bracket would have been an impossibility.
I can see the actual bracket playing out as follows.
Notre Dame over Monmouth
Dayton over Iowa in a coin-flip game, one worthy of being 4 vs. 5
Xavier over Alabama
Wichita State over USC
Iowa over Monmouth
Alabama over USC
Notre Dame over Dayton
Wichita State over Xavier
7th/8th Place: USC over Monmouth in the pair's second meeting as part of the event
5th/6th Place: Iowa over Alabama
3rd/4th Place: Dayton over Xavier in their reunion
Championship: Wichita State over Notre Dame, with the Shockers gaining a bit of revenge for the Sweet 16
Tomorrow, I'll look at this event's West Coast twin, the Wooden Legacy.
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