To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2017-18 Early Season Events Hub.
What Is It?
Again, don’t confuse this event with its Christmas week doppelganger, the Las Vegas Classic, held in the same building and run by the same organizer, Fox Sports.
How Long Has This Event Been Around?
From the 2015 primer...
The first record I can find of this event is the 2001 tournament won by Illinois (that field that also included Eastern Illinois, Georgia Tech, Hartford, Iowa State, Penn, Saint Louis, and Southern Illinois). In the first few editions, teams played one on-campus game before heading to Valley High School for three. By 2003, that arrangement changed two a pair of on-campus games and a pair in the desert.
When And Where Is It?
After the four host schools welcome the four visitors for campus-site games between November 13th and 20th, all eight teams will travel to Las Vegas for semifinals and finals in their respective brackets on Thursday, November 23rd and Friday, November 24th. In the past, the visitors’ bracket doubleheader typically preceded the hosts’ bracket each day. However, that won’t be the case this season due to television.
The Orleans Arena at the Orleans Resort is this event’s home venue once again. Unlike the MGM Resorts Main Event, it did not relocate to the new T-Mobile Arena.
The hosts’ bracket sets up an East vs. West final:
- George Washington Colonials (Atlantic 10) vs. Xavier Musketeers (Big East)
- Arizona State Sun Devils (Pac-12) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (Big 12)
While the visitors’ bracket has intersectional matchups already baked in:
- Hampton Pirates (MEAC) vs. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (Big Sky)
- Rider Broncs (MAAC) vs. UC Irvine Anteaters (Big West)
The on-campus games were also scheduled regionally this season:
- Hampton and Rider at George Washington and Xavier
- Northern Arizona and UC Irvine at Arizona State and Kansas State
Did Any Of These Teams Reach The 2017 Postseason?
Both Kansas State and Xavier won games in the NCAA Tournament—though the Wildcats’ lone win only got them in the main draw, while the Musketeers surprised by reaching the Elite Eight as an 11 seed.
Three other squads participated in other postseason brackets: UC Irvine lost at Illinois State in the NIT first round, Hampton (with a 14-16 record) fell to Coastal Carolina in the CBI’s opening round, and George Washington bowed out of that event’s second round at the hands of the UIC Flames.
How Strong Is This Event?
Based on the average four-year rankings of the participants, the 2017 Las Vegas Invitational ranks as follows when compared to other bracketed tournaments:
- Hosts’ Bracket: 4th of 24 four-team bracketed tournaments; 5th of 38 bracketed tournaments
- Visitors’ Bracket: 16th of 24 four-team bracketed tournaments; 30th of 38 bracketed tournaments
Have Any Of These Teams Played In This Event Before?
Arizona State lost the 2012 Las Vegas Invitational final to the Creighton Bluejays. In 2009, Kansas State dropped games to the Kentucky Wildcats and Iowa Hawkeyes to finish fourth in the hosts’ bracket.
What About Other Fox Sports Events Or Tournaments In Vegas?
Hampton took third place in the 2015 Las Vegas Classic visitors’ bracket—the first season the event was held under Fox management. Going further back, K-State defeated the USC Trojans and New Mexico Lobos to win the Classic in 2006, long before Fox took over.
However, this will be Northern Arizona’s second straight exempt trip to Vegas and the Lumberjacks’ third since the 2012-13 season. NAU went 1-1 in two participations in the visitors’ bracket of the Global Sports Classic in both 2012 and 2016.
Are There Any Other Notable Recent Meetings Between These Teams?
The most notable matchup among the hosts was K-State’s 101-96 win over Xavier in the 2010 Regional Semifinals in Salt Lake City. The Wildcats would go on to lose the Elite Eight game to the Butler Bulldogs. Earlier that season, Frank Martin’s squad defeated the Musketeers in Manhattan, avenging a New Year’s Eve 2007 loss in Cincinnati.
Xavier dominated GW in the latter stages of the Musketeers’ time in the Atlantic 10, winning the final seven meetings between the 2007-08 season and XU’s departure for the Big East in 2013.
Arizona State routed Xavier by 22 in a December meeting at the very beginning of the 10-year window—in 2007. Kansas State also won three games played against George Washington—two in Manhattan—between December 2011 and December 2013.
I’m a bit surprised Fox Sports didn’t go with a showcase setup for the visitors’ bracket, since Rider hosts Hampton on opening night this season. That game is a return of last season’s opener in Virginia, won by the Broncs 67-56. The Pirates recently swept a two-year series with Northern Arizona, though they needed OT to win at the Walkup Skydome in December 2015.
In terms of the on-campus games, Hampton last played at GW in November 2010, an 11-point Colonial win. Arizona State hosted, and defeated, UC Irvine, late in December 2013, but the Sun Devils lost their last game against NAU—69-68 back in December 2011.
Who Won 2016’s Edition?
The Butler Bulldogs stunned the Arizona Wildcats, 69-65, to win the hosts’ bracket. As for the visitors’ bracket, that went to the Bucknell Bison, who won at Vanderbilt Commodores in the on-campus rounds.
Did Any 2016 Teams Reach The Postseason?
The Bison went on to represent the Patriot League in the NCAA Tournament—one of four 2017 Invitational teams to qualify. Both the Bison and Vanderbilt lost in the First Round, while Butler and Arizona were both eliminated in the Sweet Sixteen. The Norfolk State Spartans, meanwhile, lost in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Will This Event Be On TV?
FS1 will air both hosts’ semifinals on Thanksgiving evening, along with the third-place game on Black Friday. As for the championship, that will precede the consolation game and appear on the Fox broadcast network.
As is typical of these events, the availability of on-campus games varies with the home conference’s media contracts. FS1 already has both of Xavier’s games on its schedule, Arizona State’s are set for Pac-12 Network, while K-State’s will appear on Fox Sports Kansas City with an ESPN3 stream.
Who’s Your Pick To Win It?
The two 2017 NCAA Tournament teams should meet in the hosts’ final, with Xavier then likely to get some revenge for March 2010. Big West power UC Irvine should take care of its competition in the visitors’ bracket.
Xavier over George Washington
Kansas State over Arizona State
Xavier over Kansas State
(consolation) Arizona State over George Washington
Hampton over Northern Arizona
UC Irvine over Rider
UC Irvine over Hampton
(consolation) Rider over Northern Arizona