To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2016-17 Early Season Events hub.
What Is It?
The Gildan Charleston Classic (official website)
How Long Has This Event Been Around?
This will be the ninth edition of this event, which began in 2008, two years after ESPN's Orlando tournament started and a year after the Worldwide Leader's Anaheim and San Juan events launched.
When And Where Is It?
Fans at the TD Arena on the campus of the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina will see a total of 12 games over three days—Thursday, November 17th (quarterfinals), Friday, November 18th (semifinals), and Sunday, November 20th (placement games). As is the case for most ESPN Events-run tournaments, Saturday is an off day so college football can dominate the TV lineup.
The 2016 NCAA Tournament champs are the anchor of this eight-team field. Here's how the quarterfinal matchups shake out. The College of Charleston represents the Colonial Athletic Association, which serves as the tournament's sponsoring conference.
Western Michigan Broncos (MAC)
Villanova Wildcats (Big East)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (ACC)
UTEP Miners (C-USA)
Mississippi State Bulldogs (SEC)
UCF Knights (American)
Boise State Broncos (MW)
College of Charleston Cougars (SoCon)
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?
Of the eight participants, only Villanova made either field.
Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?
The Wildcats will host the only scheduled non-bracketed game of 2016, welcoming host College of Charleston to the Pavilion on Wednesday, November 23rd. As VU Hoops notes, the game will be the third meeting between the pair as part of an exempt event since 2002.
Have Any Of These Teams Made The Trip Before?
Even though the tournament takes place on its home floor, the College of Charleston can only participate once in a four-year cycle, as its located in the continental United States. The Cougars previously appeared in 2008 (finishing third) and 2012 (finishing seventh).
When I attended this event in 2013, the Cougars played a home game, an 89-55 home win over the Furman Paladins, during the tournament's Saturday off!
Western Michigan is the only other 2016 entrant to make the trip to the Carolina Coast before. The Broncos went 0-3 in the Classic's inaugural edition, losing to the SIU Edwardsville Cougars, a late addition to the field that was just starting the transition to Division I.
Who's Played In Other ESPN Events Lately?
Seven of the eight participants have played in at least two ESPN Events tournaments since 2006. This will only be the second appearance for UCF, however, as the Knights have only a 1-2 appearance in the 2007 Old Spice Classic (in their backyard) on their record.
This will be the College of Charleston's seventh appearance in an ESPN-run tourney, though they've never claimed a championship in any of them. Villanova, on the other hand, heads to South Carolina aiming for its fourth November title in a row—the Wildcats won the 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis, 2014 Legends Classic, and 2015 NIT Season Tip-Off. They also claimed the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in 2009.
Villanova defeated UCF in the first round of the 2007 Old Spice Classic, while Wake Forest defeated UTEP of the semifinals of the 2008 76 Classic in Anaheim. Western Michigan topped Charleston to finish fifth in the first Diamond Head Classic in 2009. The Miners and Broncos failed to meet in the 2014 Wooden Legacy in Orange County, Calif.
Any Other Notable Recent Meetings?
UTEP, Nova, and Wake all participated in the 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis, but didn't meet. The Wildcats and Demon Deacons were both part of the 2010 NIT Season Tip-Off field, but Wake lost to the VCU Rams at home in their regional final. The Miners and UCF played nine times as Conference USA rivals between 2006 and 2013 with the Knights holding a 5-4 advantage.
Who Won Last Year?
The Virginia Cavaliers didn't break a sweat in sweeping through 2015's bracket. Tony Bennett's team took down the Bradley Braves by 25 in the quarterfinals, the Long Beach State 49ers by 35 in the semifinals, and the George Mason Patriots, an in-state rival, by an 83-66 score in the championship game.
Did Any 2015 Entrants Make The NCAAs Or NIT?
The Cavaliers and the Seton Hall Pirates, the fifth-place finisher, made the NCAA field, with Virginia reaching the Elite Eight. Long Beach State, meanwhile, lost an NIT first round game to the Washington Huskies.
Will It Be On TV?
The championship tilt will air on ESPN2 after the Puerto Rico Tip-Off final on the night of Sunday, November 20th. While ESPNU will be the home for the majority of the Caribbean event's games, only one semifinal and the third-place game from South Carolina will end up on that channel. Instead, the bulk of the Charleston Classic will appear on ESPN2 (two quarterfinals, one semifinal, and the final) or an ESPN3 stream (two quarterfinals and the majority of the consolation games). As usual, I'll have updated TV info here as the event unfolds.
Who Do You Think Will Win?
I'm not going to dance around this. It would be a MAJOR surprise if a team not named "Villanova" left Charleston with the trophy this November. In fact, quality win opportunities could be scarce. While the Wildcats will be a national contender again this season, it's likely none of the other seven will find themselves in a similar neighborhood. Wake Forest, Western Michigan, and UCF all finished near the bottom of their respective conferences, with the Knights firing Donnie Jones (replacing him with former Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins).
Mississippi State, 11th in the SEC last season, should be better in 2016-17, thanks to some strong recruiting by Ben Howland. But the Bulldogs will be tested in the bottom half by a Boise State squad that should again contend in the Mountain West and a Charleston squad that will be playing at home. UTEP might be Nova's biggest challenge in the top half, provided the Miners get past the Demon Deacons on Thursday.
Here are my (likely) worthless mid-summer predictions for the event.
Villanova over Western Michigan
Wake Forest over UTEP
Mississippi State over UCF
College of Charleston over Boise State
Villanova over Wake Forest
Mississippi State over College of Charleston
UTEP over Western Michigan
Boise State over UCF
7th/8th Place: Western Michigan over UCF
5th/6th Place: Boise State over UTEP
3rd/4th Place: Wake Forest over College of Charleston
Championship: Villanova over Mississippi State