To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2016-17 Early Season Events hub.
What Is It?
The AdvoCare Invitational (official website)
How Long Has This Event Been Around?
The Arkansas Razorbacks defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers in the first final of what was then called the "Old Spice Classic" on November 26, 2006, so the event celebrates its 10th anniversary this season.
When And Where Is It?
As is traditional, the AdvoCare Invitational's quarterfinals will be played on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 24th, with the semifinals on Friday, November 25th, and the finals scheduled for Sunday, November 27th, after a break for football programming on Saturday.
All 12 games will take place in the HP Field House at ESPN's Wide World of Sports. The facility is located within Walt Disney World just outside of Orlando.
The eight teams are grouped here by quarterfinal matchup. Quinnipiac represents the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, this tournament's sponsor.
Indiana State Sycamores (MVC)
Iowa State Cyclones (Big 12)
Stanford Cardinal (Pac-12)
Miami Hurricanes (ACC)
Gonzaga Bulldogs (WCC)
Quinnipiac Bobcats (MAAC)
Seton Hall Pirates (Big East)
Florida Gators (SEC)
Logos from SportsLogos.net
Here's the full bracket, courtesy of ESPN Events.
Did Any Of These Teams Make The NCAAs or NIT Last Season?
Gonzaga, Iowa State, and Miami all fell in the Sweet Sixteen, with the Bulldogs and Cyclones both losing in the Midwest Regional semis. Seton Hall also qualified—the Zags eliminated the Pirates in an 11-over-6 upset.
Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?
It doesn't look like it. I thought for a time there would be at least one, but based on some recent events, my thoughts have changed. It all relates to Florida's unusual schedule for this season.
Remember, the Gators had to play on the road in the NIT because of renovations to the O'Connell Center that began with the conclusion of the regular season. Those continue, and Florida is barnstorming around the Sunshine State through November and December—hence why it's finally participating in this event in its 11th edition. All reports that I've seen (for example, Alligator Army and Garry Smits in the Florida Times-Union) indicate that Florida is playing 13 non-conference games and 31 total. As I've written before, the only NCAA Manual-mandated way to get to 31 regular-season games is to play four games as part of an exempt event.
Smits reports that UF might have to switch its scheduled November 11th game in Jacksonville with the Belmont Bruins to Tampa on November 21st. I assumed the contest at Amalie Arena would serve as a fourth AdvoCare game for the Gators and feature a team from the top half of the bracket, say Miami.
However, if UF is struggling to fill that spot, that's clearly not the case. Therefore, I have to think that the athletic department received a waiver to schedule a non-exempt 13th non-conference game, likely to recoup some revenue in a season when the team lacks an arena for nearly two months.
Have Any Of These Teams Made The Trip Before?
As I alluded to in the introduction, Gonzaga is a perfect 7-0 in this event all-time (counting a win over West Virginia in a non-bracketed game in 2012). The Bulldogs defeated the Tennessee Volunteers in the 2008 final and the Davidson Wildcats in 2012's championship.
Indiana State finished third in 2011, going 2-1 in a field that featured an odd collection of some of the country's worst power conference teams at the time—the Arizona State Sun Devils, DePaul Blue Demons, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Texas Tech Red Raiders, and Wake Forest Demon Deacons).
Curiously, neither of the two in-state entrants have played in this event before. In fact, only two Florida teams have participated all-time: the UCF Knights (seventh in 2007) and Florida State Seminoles (2009 champions).
Who's Played In Other ESPN Events Recently?
Even though this will be Miami's first participation in the Advocare Invitational, the Canes will complete a five-year tour of ESPN Events tournaments this year. They'll be aiming for a third title in a row, after victories in the 2014 Gildan Charleston Classic and 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off. (Miami went 1-2 in the 2012 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, including a loss to Indiana State in the third-place game, and 2-1 in the 2013 Directv Wooden Legacy.) The Hurricanes also claimed the 2007 title in San Juan and the 2009 crown in Charleston.
Seton Hall has played in three previous ESPN tournaments since 2008, going 2-1 in each, including a fifth-place finish in Charleston last season.
Iowa State won the 2013 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in its only prior ESPN Event. Stanford only managed to top the DePaul in the seventh-place game of the 2010 76 Classic in Anaheim.
Any Other Notable Recent Meetings?
Last season, Miami completed a sweep of a two-year home-and-home with in-state rival Florida. Otherwise, there haven't been many encounters over the past five seasons.
Who Won Last Year?
Did Any 2015 Entrants Make The NCAAs Or NIT?
A whopping six squads made the Big Dance, while the Monmouth Hawks—viewed as one of the biggest NCAA snubs—and Alabama Crimson Tide reached the NIT. Of the NCAA entrants, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish went the furthest, falling a game short of the Final Four. Xavier, the Iowa Hawkeyes, and the Wichita State Shockers—a First Four team—all fell in the Second Round, while Dayton and the USC Trojans failed to get out of Round One.
Will It Be On TV?
All 12 games will appear on an ESPN outlet, with only one consolation semifinal set for ESPN3. ESPN will air the championship game during the early afternoon hours of Sunday, November 27th.
Who Do You Think Will Win?
Even though both Gonzaga and Miami lost talent after the 2015-16 season, they'll still likely be the two best teams here. Iowa State, another squad that heads into the new season with some holes to fill, should still be good enough to get to the semifinals. The nightcap on Thanksgiving is a true 4/5 game. Seton Hall will again be an NCAA contender, while Florida is poised to end a two-year Tournament drought, especially with College of Charleston transfer Canyon Barry likely adding some scoring punch that was lacking at times last season. But a virtual home crowd (including yours truly, this is my "home" tournament after all) should push the Gators past the Pirates.
Given the Hurricanes' success in exempt events overall and the Zags' track record in Florida, I expect both to reach the final. That game could be one of the most exciting of the season's first month.
Iowa State over Indiana State
Miami over Stanford
Gonzaga over Quinnipiac
Florida over Seton Hall
Miami over Iowa State
Gonzaga over Florida
Stanford over Indiana State
Seton Hall over Quinnipiac
7th/8th Place: Indiana State over Quinnipiac
5th/6th Place: Seton Hall over Stanford
3rd/4th Place: Florida over Iowa State
Championship: Gonzaga over Miami