To catch up on all of the posts in this series, visit the 2016-17 Early Season Events hub.
What Is It?
The 2016 Tire Pros Invitational (official website)
How Long Has This Event Been Around?
Somewhat unbelievably, this will be the 10th edition of this tournament, normally known as the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. It can be viewed as the replacement for the men's edition of the San Juan Shootout, played for the final time in 2006.
When And Where Is It?
The 2016 Tire Pros Invitational will take place over the weekend before Thanksgiving—on Thursday, November 17th (quarterfinals); Friday, November 18th (semifinals); and Sunday, November 20th (finals). ESPN Events-run tournaments typically take the Saturday of tournament weekend off for football coverage.
Update 09/26/2016: Usually, this event takes place on Puerto Rico, with San Juan's Roberto Clemente Coliseum serving as its home arena since 2013. The 2012 edition took place in Bayamón's Coliseo Rubén Rodríguez, while San Juan's newest arena, the José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum hosted the first five editions.
However, thanks to concerns about the Zika Virus, ESPN Events announced on September 26th that this season's tournament would take place at the HP Field House at ESPN's Wide World Of Sports complex at Walt Disney World just outside of Orlando, Fla. The dates will remain the same and the venue will also host the AdvoCare Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend as planned. Note that Xavier won that event in 2015.
Eight teams will make the trip to the Caribbean. Here's how they'll match up in the quarterfinals. Note that Tulane represents the American Athletic Conference, which took over the event's sponsoring duties after the Big East's velvet divorce in 2013.
Clemson Tigers (ACC)
Davidson Wildcats (A 10)
Xavier Musketeers (Big East)
Missouri Tigers (SEC)
Northern Iowa Panthers (MVC)
Arizona State Sun Devils (Pac-12)
Tulane Green Wave (American)
Oklahoma Sooners (Big 12)
Logos from SportsLogos.net
You can find the full bracket at this link or take a look at the image below.
Image courtesy ESPN Events
Did Any Of These Teams Make The NCAAs or NIT Last Season?
Three teams made the NCAA Tournament, with Oklahoma reaching the Final Four. Northern Iowa and Xavier both fell in the Second Round. None of the three likely want to discuss their eliminations. Davidson was the only 2016 NIT entrant, losing at Florida State in round one.
Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?
Northern Iowa will travel to Xavier on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, November 26th. That matchup will be the first game of a two-season home-and-home series.
Note that Arizona State has 13 non-conference games on its schedule despite not arranging a fourth Puerto Rico Tip-Off contest. That's because their game against the Kentucky Wildcats at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas counts separately as exempt, as it will be played on foreign soil.
Have Any Of These Teams Made The Trip Before?
Months after their run to the 2008 Elite Eight and before a trip to 2009's Sweet 16, Xavier won the second Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The Musketeers might fancy their chances at a second title given this season's bracket. Back in 2008, they were also paired with Missouri in the quarterfinals, defeating the Tigers 75-71. Mizzou then claimed two wins to finish fifth.
Davidson went 2-1 to claim fifth place in the 2010 Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Who's Played In Other ESPN Events Lately?
All eight teams have participated in at least one ESPN Events tournament since 2008. This will be Xavier's seventh alone in that span, and they head to San Juan one season after claiming the Advocare Invitational title at Walt Disney World. Oklahoma also claimed a championship last season, as the Sooners defeated the Harvard Crimson in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic final on Christmas night. Going further back, Clemson won the first-ever Charleston Classic in 2008.
Davidson and Tulane both made the trip to South Carolina a year later, but didn't meet. In their next trip to Charleston, Wildcats were routed by eventual champion Clemson in the event's 2013 semifinals. The Tigers and Xavier shared a hotel and little else in Honolulu in 2011. On Oahu last season, an anticipated Oklahoma-UNI semifinal failed to materialize when the Panthers fell to the homestanding Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors in the quarterfinals. In Orlando in 2012, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Davidson lost to the Gonzaga Bulldogs in that order as Mark Few's team claimed its second Old Spice Classic title.
Any Other Notable Recent Meetings?
Missouri must be tired of seeing Xavier, who swept the Tigers in a two-season home-and-home that ended last season. Mizzou and Oklahoma shared a conference up until the 2011-12 campaign, but have met just once since, a big Sooner win in Norman in December of 2014.
Who Won Last Year?
The Miami Hurricanes rolled through the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off, blowing out the Mississippi State Bulldogs by 26 and the Utah Utes by 24 before topping the Butler Bulldogs 85-75 to claim the title.
Did Any 2015 Entrants Make The NCAAs Or NIT?
The Hurricanes, Utes, and Bulldogs all reached the NCAAs, where the Temple Owls and Texas Tech Red Raiders joined them. Miami went the furthest, winning two games before meeting the buzzsaw that was the 2015-16 Villanova Wildcats in the Regional Semifinals.
Will It Be On TV?
Of course! The championship game will air on ESPN2 on the night of Sunday, November 20th. ESPNU will carry the bulk of the action over the three days, with Thursday's Tulane-Oklahoma quarterfinal possibly making it onto ESPN2 and Sunday's seventh-place game dropping down to ESPN3. Naturally, I'll be providing updated TV information on the blog.
Who Do You Think Will Win?
Even after the graduation of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma should still be a NCAA contender in 2016-17. So should Xavier, though the Musketeers would have had an even higher ceiling had Jalen Reynolds removed his name from the NBA Draft, as Trevon Bluiett did. Clemson is a team to watch, as Jaron Blossomgame, another player who elected to return to school, might just be the best individual in this whole field. Arizona State should be improved in Bobby Hurley's second season, while Davidson and UNI are likely to contend in their respective conferences. The graduation of Wes Washpun and Paul Jesperson might limit the Panthers' ceiling in San Juan, however.
Tulane and Missouri look like good bets for the seventh-place game.
It's the summer still, so don't read too much into my picks.
Clemson over Davidson
Xavier over Missouri
Arizona State over UNI
Oklahoma over Tulane
Xavier over Clemson
Oklahoma over Arizona State
In the consolation bracket, Davidson and UNI will earn the right to grab a second win.
7th/8th Place: Missouri over Tulane
5th/6th Place: Davidson over UNI
3rd/4th Place: Clemson over Arizona State
Championship: Xavier over Oklahoma
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