To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2017-18 Early Season Events Hub.
This is the first of a pair of entries delivering quick hits on this season’s round-robin (or quasi-round-robin) multi-team events. Tomorrow’s will focus on those events centered on a single campus.
I’ve ordered these fields by their respective field strength based on their average four-year Team Scores.
HoopHall Miami 2017
The team with the worst record of these five, the Toledo Rockets, finished 17-17 after losing to the George Washington Colonials in the CBI’s first round. The Kansas Jayhawks fell in the Elite Eight, while the Texas Southern Tigers couldn’t get past the North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA’s Round of 64. As for the Oakland Golden Grizzlies and Syracuse Orange, both left the NIT after round two.
None of the other events on this list packs the punch that this one does, and that doesn’t even include the non-exempt matchup between another two 2017 NCAA teams, the Miami Hurricanes and Princeton Tigers, that’s scheduled to follow December 2nd’s showcase game at AmericanAirlines Arena between Kansas and Syracuse.
That showdown will mark only the second meeting between the Orange and Jayhawks since Cuse’s 2003 National Championship game win in New Orleans. And I attended the first, as the Orange stunned KU in Kansas City to claim the 2008 CBE Classic title.
With Rick Pitino’s ouster from the Louisville Cardinals’ head coaching job, this season’s Gotham Classic has lost some of its luster. And that was true even before news of the FBI investigation broke—the Cardinals’ Madison Square Garden showcase game against the Memphis Tigers, a former Conference USA and American rival, already looked like a potential blowout because of program defections in the Mid-South after Tubby Smith’s first season in charge. But hey, at least there will be a showcase in New York this season, after 2016’s UMass-anchored field played exclusively at campus sites.
Last season, Louisville’s NCAA run ended in the Second Round at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines, while the Albany Great Danes lost in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament’s first round to eventual champion Saint Peter’s. While Memphis won 19 games, the Siena Saints needed a run to the MAAC semifinals to reach .500 and the Bryant Bulldogs went 12-20.
Memphis and Louisville haven’t met since their lone shared season in the American (a series the Tigers swept back in 2013-14). On the other hand, Albany and Siena play annually, with each winning five of their last 10 meetings.
Hoops In The Heartland Benefitting Men Vs. Breast Cancer
With six teams in the field, and four games permitted under the MTE rule, this will be the first event in this post where each team does not play every other one. In fact, the Green Bay Phoenix and Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks are counting single games against non-D1 foes as part of their participation, while the Stetson Hatters will count two. Surprisingly, the Florida A&M Rattlers, dead last in the four-season rankings table, didn’t join the 325th-ranked Hatters in pursuing this course of action.
Contests between the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Green Bay, North Dakota State Bison, and SFA are naturally the main attractions here, even if only the Phoenix (CBI) and Lumberjacks (CollegeInsider.com Tourney) participated in the last postseason. And with this event’s scheduling, the Phoenix won’t even play Summit power NDSU.
Global Sports Invitational
Since this is a Global Sports Management tournament, there’s plenty of prior history with the organizer for all five teams.
This will be the Illinois Fighting Illini’s third appearance in a Global-run event in the last five years and the fourth in a row for the Marshall Thundering Herd. Dan D’Antoni’s squad has even defeated the North Carolina Central Eagles in two consecutive seasons in Global MTEs. This will be the seventh year in a row LeVelle Moton’s outfit has participated in such an event—the Eagles even lost to the Southern Jaguars, who are increasing their Global streak to six this season, in the semifinals of 2015’s Global Sports Classic visitors’ bracket in Las Vegas. As for the UT Martin Skyhawks, their last participation in a Global event came in 2013, their third in four seasons.
Adolph Rupp Classic
While none of the six teams in this Kentucky Wildcats-anchored tournament scheduled a non-D1 foe as part of their participation, it’s not a true round-robin either. I’ll end the suspense now—the Delaware State Hornets are the team that avoid a trip to Rupp in this one.
This is the fourth season in a row that Kentucky will participate in a round-robin. They’ve gone 12-0 in their prior three with 11 of those wins coming in Lexington.
Surprisingly, two teams joined the UK squad eliminated by eventual National Champion North Carolina Tar Heels in the Elite Eight in last season’s NCAAs. However, the East Tennessee State Buccaneers lost to the Florida Gators and the Troy Trojans fell to the Duke Blue Devils in the First Round. The Fort Wayne Mastodons couldn’t get past the CollegeInsider.com Tournament’s second round and the UIC Flames lost in the CBI semifinals—an invitation secured despite a 15-18 post-Horizon Tournament record.
Hoosier Tip-Off Classic
The Indiana Hoosiers’ NIT loss to Georgia Tech was the only postseason game any of these five teams played post-conference tournament. This event’s alleged “showcase” game featuring the Hoosiers and a 7-23 USF Bulls squad that fired its coach in-season isn’t terribly attractive—honestly, a 20-win Arkansas State Red Wolves team or an Eastern Michigan Eagles squad that went 16-17 is more deserving of the honor. As for the Howard Bison, they won just 10 games a season ago, with only eight of those victories coming over Division I foes.
Grand Canyon Classic
This five-team tournament will take place at just three sites. The Grand Canyon Antelopes, aiming for a WAC title in their first season of NCAA Tournament eligibility, will host all four opponents. That includes the San Diego Toreros, who will welcome the other three teams to Jenny Craig Pavilion. As for the meetings between the Little Rock Trojans, Norfolk State Spartans, and Robert Morris Colonials, they’ll take place in the Trojans’ building over Thanksgiving weekend.
With the Antelopes passing up a CBI or CollegeInsider.com bid last season, Norfolk State was the lone postseason squad out of this group. The Spartans lost to the Liberty Flames in the latter tournament’s opening round.
Men Against Breast Cancer Showcase
If you thought the Grand Canyon event was efficient in terms of location, this one has it beat. The Air Force Falcons will host each of the other four participants—the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions, Canisius Golden Griffins, Pacific Tigers, and Texas State Bobcats, while that quartet will travel to Stockton, California for a three-day round-robin event hosted by the UoP.
Texas State (quarterfinals) and Canisius (first round) are the lone postseason participants here, as both entered the CollegeInsider.com event.
Showcase On The Banks
That’s two more postseason teams than found in this event, which features teams that won six (Central Connecticut State Blue Devils), nine (Cleveland State Vikings), eight (Coppin State Eagles), and 15 (East Carolina Pirates and Rutgers Scarlet Knights) games in the 2016-17 season.
Ramblin’ Wreck Showcase
How do you put together a field than one that includes traditional Power 7 punching bags Rutgers and East Carolina? Do what the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets did—namely gather four of the worst programs over the past four seasons to join you.
The Grambling State Tigers (350th of 351 Division I teams), Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (337th), UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros (335th), and North Texas Mean Green (303rd) all rank in the bottom 50 of the four-year rankings. And while Georgia Tech lost the NIT final to the TCU Horned Frogs, none of their opponents in this event managed more than 15 wins. And only typically hapless Grambling, which went 15-17 in 2016-17, managed that many victories.