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2017 AdvoCare Invitational Primer

Yes, West Virginia will be heavily favored to claim the title at Walt Disney World on Thanksgiving weekend, but strong performances in this event could help push several participants into the at-large picture.

The 2017 AdvoCare Invitational Bracket
Courtesy ESPN Events

To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2017-18 Early Season Events Hub.

What Is It?

The AdvoCare Invitational

How Long Has This Event Been Around?

This will be the 12th edition of the ESPN Events-owned-and-operated tournament, as it started all the way back in 2006.

When And Where Is It?

As always, the AdvoCare Invitational is scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and the Sunday of the holiday weekend—November 23rd, 24th, and 26th this season—at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on the southern fringes of the Walt Disney World Resort outside of Orlando.

Who's Playing?

The eight 2017 AdvoCare Invitational participants
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from Sportslogos.net

At first glance, this isn’t the most exciting field, thanks to the presence of several teams that rode the struggle-bus throughout the 2016-17 season. But there’s truly a ton of potential here, starting with the very first team listed.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference hosts this event as part of a long-term deal with ESPN Events and the Wide World of Sports Complex, which hosts several conference events annually, so Marist fills the league’s host spot.

The full bracket is below and here’s a link to the printable version.

The full 2017 AdvoCare Invitational bracket
Courtesy ESPN Events

Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?

This season’s edition features three—with a bit of a twist. That’s because Nebraska’s November 16th trip to St. John’s doubles as part of the Gavitt Tip-Off series. That’s the first time, at least that I can recall, that an exempt tournament non-bracketed game is simultaneously listed as part of a conference challenge series.

Long Beach State travels to West Virginia on November 20th, while Mizzou might as well just hang around in the Orlando area for the week after Thanksgiving. The Tigers play at UCF on November 30th.

Note that Long Beach State and Oregon State could meet twice in a one-week span, as the Beavers and 49ers sit on the same half of the bracket despite their November 18th game in Corvallis that is not tied to this tournament.

Did Any Of These Teams Reach The 2017 Postseason?

What part of “rode the struggle-bus throughout the 2016-17 season” do you not understand?

Okay, maybe that’s a tad bit unfair. But while West Virginia lost in the Sweet Sixteen to the 2016 AdvoCare champion Gonzaga Bulldogs and the NIT champion TCU Horned Frogs disposed of UCF in that tournament’s semifinals, the other six teams in this field failed to even reach .500.

How Strong Is This Event?

Based on the average four-year rankings of the participants, the 2017 AdvoCare Invitational ranks 10th out of 14 eight-team bracketed tournaments and 19th out of 38 bracketed tournaments.

Have Any Of These Teams Played In This Event Before?

This will be West Virginia’s third trip to Walt Disney World—the Mountaineers were runners-up to the Arkansas Razorbacks in the inaugural Old Spice Classic in 2006 and finished a disappointing fourth in 2012’s edition, thanks to losses to Davidson and future Big 12 rival Oklahoma. Bob Huggins’s squad began that tournament with an 87-44 quarterfinal thumping of Marist. The Red Foxes later beat Vanderbilt (by a hideous 50-33 score) and lost to Clemson to finish sixth. That’s a far cry from Marist’s third-place finish in the 2006 edition, when the Foxes didn’t meet WVU.

UCF is the only other participant to have made the (in the Knights’ case, short) trip. The Knights defeated Penn State in the 2007 edition’s seventh-place game to avoid an 0-3 weekend.

Amazingly, the Knights will be only the fifth Sunshine State team to make an appearance here—2009 champion Florida State and 2016 participants Florida and Miami join the 2007 and 2017 Knights as the others.

While Oregon State has never played in this event previously, head coach Wayne Tinkle led the Montana Grizzlies in the inaugural Old Spice Classic—finishing 1-2 with a win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

What About Other ESPN Events Tournaments?

On the flip side, this will not be the first time Missouri has participated in an ESPN-owned tournament at this venue. In fact, the Tigers will spend a November weekend in Central Florida for the second year in a row. That’s because ESPN Events shifted the 2016 Puerto Rico Tip-Off to Walt Disney World due to Zika concerns. New coach Cuonzo Martin will hope for a better showing than the 1-2 seventh-place finish Kim Anderson’s team managed.

Every one of these squads has taken part in at least one ESPN Events tournament since the 2006-07 season, with West Virginia (six in the last 11 seasons) and Long Beach State (five in that span) leading the way. Last season alone, four did—West Virginia (second in the NIT Season Tip-Off), UCF (Charleston Classic runners-up), Nebraska (fourth at the Wooden Legacy), and Missouri. Despite all of those appearances, however, the Mountaineers are the only team to win a championship, something they managed at both the 2014 Puerto Rico Tip-Off and 2009 76 Classic in Anaheim. Long Beach State happened to be WVU’s opponent at the start of that California run.

Are There Any Other Notable Recent Meetings Between These Teams?

Former Big 8 and 12 rivals Missouri and Nebraska and ex-Big East mates St. John’s and West Virginia have by far the most history here. However, the former foes have not met since going their separate ways. Somewhat surprisingly, the Huskers and Tigers split their final 10 conference meetings, spanning the 2007-08 season and Nebraska’s departure in 2011. The Mountaineers and Red Storm didn’t meet nearly as frequently, thanks to the bloated nature of that version of the Big East, but the Johnnies won the last two meetings in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons—which broke a streak of 10 straight WVU wins in the series.

Missouri and West Virginia, the team that for all intents and purposes replaced the Tigers in the Big 12 following their 2012 flight to the SEC, have met twice recently. Mizzou claimed an 80-72 win in Columbia in December 2013, while WVU took a more noteworthy victory—in the Second Round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

Oregon State and Nebraska split a home-and-home series played in the Decembers of 2008 and 2009.

Just last season, Long Beach State took down Oregon State 71-67 in a game played in Portland in mid-December. The 49ers dropped a 69-59 decision at Mizzou Arena in the early days of 2014 and a 66-49 one at St. John’s as the year was wrapping up. (Note that Long Beach State did not travel to St. John’s for one of its Battle 4 Atlantis mainland games last season.)

The Red Storm defeated the Red Foxes from Marist twice at the beginning of the 10-season window I review—both in December of 2007 and 2008. Both of those games were Holiday Festival semifinal wins that St. John’s followed with final losses to Virginia Tech!

Who Won 2016’s Edition?

The Gonzaga Bulldogs won this tournament for an unprecedented third time, thanks to a thrilling 73-71 win over the Iowa State Cyclones in the championship game.

Did Any 2016 Teams Reach The Postseason?

The Bulldogs marched all the way to the National Championship game, which they lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Florida Gators, the Zags’ semifinal victim, fell to SEC rival South Carolina in the Elite Eight, while Iowa State reached the Second Round. Miami and Seton Hall each lost their March Madness opener. As for the other three squads—Indiana State, Quinnipiac, and Stanford—all failed to break even on the season.

Will This Event Be On TV?

All 12 games will appear on an ESPN outlet, though four will be ESPN3 exclusives because of the sheer number of college hoops game on offer that weekend with the addition of the Phil Knight Invitational. ESPN2 will air the championship game, which will be an unusual (outside of the NCAAs) 9:30 p.m. Eastern tip on a Sunday night.

Who’s Your Pick To Win It?

West Virginia will be a heavy favorite here, though Missouri, with Michael Porter Jr. on the roster, Nebraska, St. John’s, and Oregon State all aiming to prove that they’ll be much better than they were last year. However, UCF, with a slight home advantage, will be dangerous as it aims to build on last season’s NIT run. And Long Beach State will always aim to surprise while making its way through its typical non-conference gauntlet.

Quarterfinals

Missouri over Long Beach State
St. John’s over Oregon State
UCF over Nebraska
West Virginia over Marist

Semifinals

Missouri over St. John’s
West Virginia over UCF
(consolation) Oregon State over Long Beach State
(consolation) Nebraska over Marist

Finals

Championship: West Virginia over Missouri
3rd/4th: UCF over St. John’s
5th/6th: Oregon State over Nebraska
7th/8th: Long Beach State over Marist

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