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2016 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic Primer: USC Highlights A Quartet Full Of Questions

The Trojans are the only team of the eight in this field to end last season with more wins than losses.

Bob Donnan-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 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic (official website, kind of)

Don't confuse this event with the Las Vegas Invitational, held during Thanksgiving weekend in the same arena. The easy way to remember the difference—the Las Vegas Classic is played during Christmas week.

How Long Has This Event Been Around?

From last season's primer...

The first Las Vegas Classic took place in December of 2001. Cincinnati went 4-0 to claim that event's crown, which saw each of the eight participants (Akron, UIC, ULM Warhawks, Mississippi State, Purdue, Richmond, and Texas A&M also took part) play one game on-campus and three at Valley High School, a format followed by the earliest versions of the Las Vegas Invitational.

It looks like the December event took a few years off (considering searches for "Las Vegas Classic" for 2002 and 2003 result with info on the November event) reappearing in 2004 with a confusing format featuring six participants who all played two on-campus games and two in Vegas. The split-bracket format was established in 2005, though the visitors' bracket didn't technically exist then due to a reduced field. The 2006 event, won by Kansas State, was the first to take place at Orleans Arena, which first hosted the Las Vegas Invitational one month earlier.

When And Where Is It?

All eight on-campus games are set, with four on Saturday, December 17th and another quartet set for Monday, December 19th. As usual, each of the four visitors will visit two host schools. Everyone will then travel to Las Vegas, where the Orleans Arena will host a pair of bracketed tournaments on Thursday, December 22nd and Friday, December 23rd. Afternoon sessions on both days feature the visitors' bracket, with the hosts' taking the court in the evening.

Who's Playing?

While Fox Sports taking over management of this event and the Las Vegas Invitational for the 2014-15 season, this is really the first season where they've pushed to include their primary conference partners—the Big East and Pac-12—in the two tournaments. So, just as the Arizona Wildcats and Butler Bulldogs are traveling to Nevada over Thanksgiving, DePaul and USC head to the desert for Christmas week.

DePaul
DePaul Blue Demons (Big East)
vs. 
Wyoming Cowboys (MW)
Wyoming
Missouri St
Missouri State Bears (MVC)
vs.
USC Trojans (Pac-12)
USC

While the visitors' road games are set, the bracket for Las Vegas is still to be determined.

Team Road Games Semifinal Opponent
Chicago St
Chicago State Cougars
(WAC)
DePaul
Missouri State

Cornell
Cornell Big Red
(Ivy)
Wyoming
USC

SE MO
Southeast Missouri Redhawks
(OVC)
Missouri State
DePaul

Troy
Troy Trojans
(Sun Belt)
USC
Wyoming

Logos from SportsLogos.net

This event could feature an unusual number of repeat matchups for an exempt tournament. Southeast Missouri is scheduled to face Missouri State twice in a 10-day span, with the Bears visiting Cape Girardeau on December 7th and the Redhawks heading to Springfield for their first on-campus game in this event on the 17th. Meanwhile, Missouri State visits DePaul on November 23rd, but both would need to win (or lose) to play again at the Orleans.

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

USC was the only one of these eight teams to qualify for the 2016 postseason, and the Trojans lost a 70-69 heartbreaker to the Providence Friars in the First Round in Raleigh.

Making matters worse, the Trojans are the only entrant that finished 2015-16 with a winning record. In fact, five of these teams—DePaul and all four visitors—finished dead last in their respective leagues last season. In other words, this might not be an event that features many quality win opportunities.

Have Any Of These Teams Made The Trip Before?

Missouri State participated in both 2007 and 2011, going 0-2 in Las Vegas each time. USC lost to Kansas State and defeated Wichita State during its 2006 appearance, while DePaul topped Saint Louis and fell to future conference rival Creighton in 2008.

Chicago State won the visitors' bracket in 2009.

Who's Played In Other Fox Sports Events Recently?

While none of the eight have participated in the Las Vegas Invitational or Classic during Fox Sports' limited management tenure, several of these schools played in events run by Basketball Tournaments, Inc., which previously ran the two tournaments.

Chicago State sandwiched its 2009 Las Vegas Classic appearance with participations in the 2008 Chicago Invitational Challenge and 2010 South Padre Invitational. Southeast Missouri was a visiting team in Chicago in 2007 and the Las Vegas Invitational a season later. Cornell claimed the visitors' bracket crown in the 2012 Las Vegas Invitational, but USC lost a de facto road game to the UNLV Runnin' Rebels in that event's 2011 semifinals.

Missouri State stunned the Wisconsin Badgers in the semifinals of the 2006 South Padre Invitational before losing the championship game to the Oklahoma State Cowboys in OT—a result that might have kept the Bears from earning an at-large to the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

Also, Wyoming lost both of its games in last season's Global Sports Classic, another event played in Las Vegas.

Any Other Notable Recent Meetings?

Thanks to geography, there's a fair amount of history between a few of these squads. For starters, Missouri State and Southeast Missouri have met in each of the last three seasons, with the Bears holding a 2-1 edge in those contests. (Though the Redhawks won last season's contest.) Chicago State and DePaul have met in each of the last six seasons, with the Blue Demons winning each time, which is fairly remarkable considering how often we joke about the current state of DePaul's program.

Troy defeated Southeast Missouri by three in a CBE Classic subregional game hosted by the Chattanooga Mocs in the early stages of the 2012-13 season. The two missed each other in the 2006 Top of the World Classic.

Cornell and USC both participated in the 2014 Charleston Classic, but didn't meet. Similarly, the Big Red didn't match up with Troy in the 2009 Legends Classic.

Who Won Last Year?

The SMU Mustangs defeated the Kent State Golden Flashes and Colorado Buffaloes to claim the championship, while the Canisius Golden Griffins won a triple-OT thriller over the ULM Warhawks in the visitors' semifinals before toppling the Nicholls State Colonels in the final.

Did Any 2015 Entrants Make The NCAAs Or NIT?

Colorado, a First Round loser at the hands of the Connecticut Huskies, and the Hampton Pirates, eliminated by the Virginia Cavaliers, were the only two NCAA squads, though SMU would have joined them had it been eligible.

ULM lost to Furman in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

Will It Be On TV?

This season, all four hosts' bracket games in Las Vegas will be televised, though you might have trouble finding Fox College Sports, which is scheduled to air the two semifinals. FS1 will air the consolation and championship games, however. As usual, media rights for the on-campus rounds fall under the host schools' respective contracts, so you'll probably have more luck finding the DePaul and USC home games on TV as opposed to Missouri State's or Wyoming's. However, the latter two will undoubtedly have streams available thanks to the Missouri Valley's ESPN3 streaming package and the Mountain West's with Campus Insiders.

Who Do You Think Will Win?

Even with a fair amount of roster turnover, USC looks like a heavy favorite for the hosts' crown. But that might be more of an indictment of how weak the competition is.

Semifinals

DePaul over Wyoming
USC over Missouri State

Finals

Championship: USC over DePaul
Consolation: Wyoming over Missouri State

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