To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2017-18 Early Season Events Hub.
What Is It?
How Long Has This Event Been Around?
This will be the 11th running of this tournament, as the Miami Hurricanes claimed the trophy in the event’s first edition back in 2007.
When And Where Is It?
After spending a season at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Florida titled as the “Tire Pros Invitational,” thanks to the Zika virus, the plan was to return the tournament to Puerto Rico. Then Hurricanes Irma and Maria unleashed devastation on the Commonwealth. As a result, the Tip-Off shifts again to the United States Mainland—this time to the HTC Center on the campus of Coastal Carolina in Conway, South Carolina, just outside of Myrtle Beach.
The dates remain the same, with action set to tip on Thursday, November 16th. Semifinals will take place on Friday, November 17th with the four placement games set for Sunday, November 19th. (Remember that ESPN’s events take Saturday off due to football commitments.)
Even before the move to the Palmetto State, the Puerto Rico Tip-Off was already scheduled for its fifth different venue in its relatively short history. The Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot in San Juan, the most modern arena in Puerto Rico, hosted the first four editions, but the event left for Bayamón’s Coliseo Rubén Rodríguez in 2012. Two seasons back in San Juan at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente followed and the 2016 event was slated for that arena as well before the Zika scare forced the move to Florida.
The 2017 Tip-Off was set to be on the move yet again—to the eastern Puerto Rico city of Fajardo. The host arena is the Coliseo Tomás Dones, which doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry in English or Spanish! But Maria ensured that Fajardo will end up as, at best, the sixth host for the event.
The Florida State Seminoles were long scheduled to make the trip, but Leonard Hamilton’s team, which went 26-9 in 2016-17 and earned a three seed in the NCAA Tournament, skipped out of the event in favor of a new tournament in Jamaica. The Seminoles’ replacement—an Appalachian State squad that went 9-21 and finished last season ranked 274th in KenPom—doesn’t inspire much confidence and leaves us with this quarterfinal lineup:
- Illinois State Redbirds (MVC) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (SEC)
- Boise State Broncos (MW) vs. UTEP Miners (C-USA)
- Iowa State Cyclones (Big 12) vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers (Sun Belt)
- Tulsa Golden Hurricane (American) vs. Western Michigan Broncos (MAC)
The Golden Hurricane represent the Tip-Off’s sponsoring conference, the American Athletic.
Here’s a printable version of the full bracket.
Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?
South Carolina hosts Western Michigan on November 13th, while Appalachian State counts a game against non-Division I squad, Bridgewater, as its fourth game. The Mountaineers welcome the Eagles to Boone, N.C. on November 12th
Did Any Of These Teams Reach The 2017 Postseason?
A quarter of the field reached the NCAAs and another 25% participated in the NIT.
How Strong Is This Event?
Based on the average four-year rankings of the participants, the 2017 Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Myrtle Beach ranks 8th of 14 eight-team bracketed tournaments and 14th of 38 bracketed tournaments.
Have Any Of These Teams Played In This Event Before?
What About Other ESPN Events Tournaments?
Since the “two-in-four” rule was abolished in time for the 2006-07 season, many of these teams have become regular participants in ESPN-organized tournaments. Last season alone, six of the eight teams in this year’s Puerto Rico field played in such an event. Iowa State did the best, falling to Gonzaga a thrilling AdvoCare Invitational title game I was lucky enough to see live. Boise State, UTEP, and Western Michigan all played in the Gildan Charleston Classic, where WMU lost to both the Miners and BSU in the consolation round. Illinois State defeated Tulsa in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic’s third-place game, though the Golden Hurricane knocked off the Redbirds by a 70-68 score in a home game played two weeks before.
Iowa State defeated Boise State in the 2013 Diamond Head Classic final, and the Broncos steamrolled eventual third-place finisher South Carolina in the semifinals.
In total, in 11 seasons spanning 2006-07 and 2016-17, these eight teams have made a combined 25 appearances in ESPN Events MTEs, with Western Michigan (6) and UTEP (5) leading the way. Appalachian State even participated in the now nearly-forgotten Cancun Governor’s Cup in December 2010!
Are There Any Other Notable Recent Meetings Between These Teams?
The three most interesting involve South Carolina, who won a five-point decision at home over Appalachian State in December 2012 and stunned then-ninth-ranked Iowa State 64-60 at the Barclays Center in the early days of 2015. The Gamecocks also defeated Tulsa in the 2015 Paradise Jam final.
In non-matchup history that bears mentioning, UTEP coach Tim Floyd roamed the Hilton Coliseum sidelines between 1994-1998, just before his ill-fated move to Chicago to take over the Bulls. (Maybe, just maybe that’s a career move future ISU coaches should take a pass on.)
Who Won 2016’s Edition?
The Xavier Musketeers—an eventual NCAA 11 seed and surprise Elite Eight squad—picked up a series of progressively impressive victories over the Missouri Tigers (by two after OT), Clemson Tigers (by six), and UNI Panthers (by eight) to claim their second MTE title at Walt Disney World in as many seasons.
Did Any 2016 Teams Reach The Postseason?
Surprisingly, the Musketeers and NIT qualifier Clemson were the only Tire Pros Invitational teams to reach the 2016 postseason. Of the other six, only the Davidson Wildcats managed to finish with a winning record. Honestly, having spent the Sunday before Thanksgiving 2016 watching the four placement games in person, this didn’t really surprise me, as there was some truly awful basketball played that day.
Will This Event Be On TV?
As usual, ESPN outlets will carry all 12 games from Puerto Rico. At the moment, only the Tulsa-WMU quarterfinal and 7th/8th-place games are relegated to an ESPN3 stream, while the championship game will air on ESPN2. It will form part of a championship tripleheader that day, sandwiched between the Hall of Fame Tip-Off and Charleston Classic title matchups.
Who’s Your Pick To Win It?
Even though both Iowa State and South Carolina lost a lot of production from last year’s squads, they theoretically should have just enough to win two games and meet for the title on November. The path to the final is trickier for Frank Martin’s squad, however, as both Boise State and, particularly, quarterfinal foe Illinois State, could take advantage of the Gamecocks’ losses on days one and two, though the Redbirds also lost some talent from a team that shared the Valley crown with the Wichita State Shockers. On the other hand, Iowa State has seemingly been gifted a quarterfinal win with Appalachian State’s arrival in the field, with Tulsa potentially presenting the Cyclones a problem in the semifinals.
Boise State, poised to challenge the Nevada Wolf Pack, for the Mountain West crown, might just make a statement by topping knocking off South Carolina and Iowa State squads forecast to finish in the second divisions of their respective power leagues to claim the title on November 19th.
South Carolina over Illinois State
Boise State over UTEP
Iowa State over Appalachian State
Tulsa over Western Michigan
Boise State over South Carolina
Iowa State over Tulsa
(consolation) Illinois State over UTEP
(consolation) Western Michigan over Appalachian State
Championship: Boise State over Iowa State
3rd Place: South Carolina over Tulsa
5th Place: Illinois State over Western Michigan
7th Place: UTEP over Appalachian State