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2016 Men Who Speak Up Main Event Primer: NIT Semifinal Rematch A Possibility In Vegas

Valparaiso and BYU, who met in New York last March, could very well square off again in Las Vegas this November.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2016-17 Early Season Events hub.

What Is It?

The Men Who Speak Up Main Event (official website)

How Long Has This Event Been Around?

This tournament has yet to complete its first four-year cycle, as it began in 2014.

Editor's note: I updated this post to reflect the name change back to the "MGM Grand Main Event" from the "Men Who Speak Up Main Event."

11/21: Never mind, it's switched back.

When And Where Is It?

The eight participants will play nine campus site games between November 11th and 19th before gathering in Las Vegas for action on Monday, November 21st and Wednesday, November 23rd.

Note that the Main Event takes place at its namesake, the MGM Grand Garden Arena, which hosted the last four Pac-12 Tournaments, not the new T-Mobile Arena, which will be that March event's home starting this season.

The schedule isn't as straightforward as you'd expect, however.

Who's Playing?

Since the MGM Grand Garden is one of the world's most famous boxing venues, it's not surprising that this tournament takes much of its inspiration from that sport. For starters, the hosts' bracket is titled the "Heavyweight Bracket" and the victor receives a championship belt.

Saint Louis
Saint Louis Billikens (A 10)
vs.
BYU Cougars (WCC)
BYU
Alabama
Alabama Crimson Tide (SEC)
vs.
Valparaiso Crusaders (Horizon)
Valpo

On the flip side, the visitors' bracket is the "Middleweight Bracket." With the on-campus games titled the "Undercard Games."

Thanks to Coastal Carolina's November 23rd game at Wake Forest, the Middleweight Bracket will not be a bracket at all. In fact, the Chanticleers and Coppin State will meet in Conway, S.C. on November 16th and the squads will play just one game each at the MGM Grand.

Team Undercard Games Las Vegas Games
Ball St
Ball State Cardinals
(MAC)
at Saint Louis
at Alabama
Coppin State
Southern Utah
Coastal Carolina
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
(Big South)
at Alabama
Coppin State
at BYU
Southern Utah
Coppin St
Coppin State Eagles
(MEAC)
at Valparaiso
at Coastal Carolina
at BYU
Ball State
SUU
Southern Utah Thunderbirds
(Big Sky)
at Valparaiso
at Saint Louis
Coastal Carolina
Ball State

Logos from SportsLogos.net

Coppin State's participation in this tournament is part of one of the more ridiculous bits of early season scheduling I've seen. The Eagles will play four games in a five-day span, starting at Valpo on Monday, November 14th. On the 16th, Coppin State visits Coastal, then immediately heads West to play at BYU on the 17th, then at non-participant Utahon the 18th. Michael Grant's team then gets a couple of days off before playing its lone Vegas game against Ball State.

Did Any Of These Teams Make The NCAAs or NIT Last Season?

While none of the eight participants reached the NCAAs, Alabama joined BYU and Valparaiso in the NIT. The Tide didn't get nearly as far, falling to the Creighton Bluejays in the first round.

Ball State and Coastal Carolina won two and three games, respectively, in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

Have Any Of These Teams Made The Trip Before?

As this event has not completed its first cycle, all eight participants are signed up for the first time.

Who's Played In Other BD Global Events Recently?

Valparaiso defeated both the Iona Gaels and Oregon State Beavers as part of last season's Beaver Showcase, organized by BD Global.

Any Other Notable Recent Meetings?

There haven't been many over the past five seasons, and all of the ones out there happened to involve Valparaiso, much like last season's NIT semi. Valpo dropped a 62-49 decision at Saint Louis on December 2, 2012, then fell to the Billikens by a bucket at home a year later. The Crusaders had a two-game win streak against one of their undercard opponents, in-state rival Ball State, before a loss in Muncie last November.

Who Won Last Year?

Creighton, the same team that eliminated Alabama from the NIT, won last season's Heavyweight crown thanks to wins over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and UMass Minutemen. In the fight for the Middleweight crown, the Howard Bison came out on top after victories over the Texas Southern Tigers and Central Arkansas Bears. Note that in this tournament's short history, 2015 was the only edition to feature a proper bracket for the visiting teams.

Did Any 2015 Entrants Make The NCAAs Or NIT?

Only two of last year's eight participants reached the postseason, as Creighton and Texas Southern participated in the NIT, and both teams faced teams in the 2016 Heavyweight Bracket. The Bluejays defeated Alabama in round one before BYU knocked them off for the right to advance to Madison Square Garden, while the Tigers were one-and-done, thanks to a loss at Valpo.

Just as many participants—Rutgers and the UTSA Roadrunners—finished last in their respective conferences at the end of the year.

Will It Be On TV?

Last season, the championship game aired on ESPN2, while the BD Global Sports YouTube channel streamed all of the other Las Vegas games. Expect coverage to be the same this season.

Who Do You Think Will Win?

BYU and Valparaiso, the NIT Final Four participants, are poised to build on last season, and that's true even with a coaching change in Northwest Indiana. Matt Lottich replaced Bryce Drew, who's now in charge of the Vanderbilt Commodores. The perennial Horizon League favorites could be poised for a particularly big season, thanks to the return of senior Alec Peters, one of the more talented forwards in the entire country.

Alabama should take a step back from a surprising first season under Avery Johnson, due to the graduation of both Retin Obasohan and Shannon Hale. But it's not like we expected much out of the Crimson Tide before their surprising 2-1 trip to the AdvoCare Invitational last November.

Saint Louis, now coached by former Oklahoma State boss Travis Ford, is likely to finish fourth. However, Ford's Cowboys won this event's inaugural edition in 2014.

Semifinals

BYU over Saint Louis
Valparaiso over Alabama

Finals

Valparaiso over BYU (championship)
Alabama over Saint Louis (consolation)

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