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2017 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam Primer

This season’s event will take place on Liberty’s campus due to the devastation Hurricanes Irma and Maria unleashed upon the Virgin Islands

The 2017 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam field
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from Sportslogos.net.

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

What Is It?

The U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam

How Long Has This Event Been Around?

From my 2015 primer...

The men's Paradise Jam began in 2001, a year after the women's version tipped off. From 2001 to 2005, six teams participated, and they were divided into a pair of three-team pools. Each trio played a round-robin, with matchups for the final crossover games based on placement within the groups.

Since 2006, the format has been that of a typical "three games in four days" bracket. The interesting thing about it is that the loser of the third-place game between the semifinal losers finishes fifth with a 1-2 record, while the winner of the consolation final claims fourth, thanks to a 2-1 mark. Usually, the third-place game loser claims fourth ahead of a team with a better record. Logic prevails!

When And Where Is It?

In most seasons, the eight teams would have gathered at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Sport and Fitness Center on St. Thomas. But the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Irma led organizers to consider a move to St. Croix—then Hurricane Maria made that impossible. After accepting bids from the participating schools, the event was shifted to the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The move led to the schedule to be condensed by a day. The quarterfinals are still set for the Friday before Thanksgiving, November 17th. However, both the consolation and championship semifinals will take place on Saturday, November 18th. Typically, the four quarterfinal winners receive a day off. Finally, the placement games are all set for Sunday, November 19th, capped by the championship tilt.

Who's Playing?

The 2017 Paradise Jam field in their quarterfinal matchups.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from Sportslogos.net.

Even though two Power 6 teams are in the field, the bracket is set up so only one can reach the final. This is similar to last season, when three of the four power conference participants were stacked on the bottom half of the bracket.

Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?

While Liberty is scheduled to travel to Wake Forest on November 14th, the Flames’ November 10th home game against non-Division I Clarks Summit is one of four such non-bracketed games that appear to be tied to 2017’s Paradise Jam.

Did Any Of These Teams Reach The 2017 Postseason?

Only Wake Forest qualified for the NCAAs and the Demon Deacons fell to the Kansas State Wildcats in the second Tuesday First Four game. Colorado and Houston both fell in the NIT first round to the UCF Knights and Akron Zips, respectively, while Liberty reached the CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinals, where they lost to the UMBC Retrievers. The other four squads failed to finish at .500 in 2016-17.

How Strong Is This Event?

Based on the average four-year rankings of the participants, the 2017 Paradise Jam ranks 11th of 14 eight-team bracketed tournaments and 20th of 38 bracketed tournaments.

Have Any Of These Teams Played In This Event Before?

Drake and Drexel each finished 1-2 in a 2011 Paradise Jam that featured a surprising Marquette Golden Eagles-Norfolk State Spartans final; however, the two didn’t meet. The Dragons’ trip featured a truly awful 49-35 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers in the consolation semifinals that was luckily only streamed, not televised. (Note that the Florida Gators were the true Paradise Jam champs that season, thanks to consecutive NCAA Tournament wins over Virginia, Norfolk State, and Marquette on their 2012 Elite Eight run...heh heh.)

One year later, Mercer, Quinnipiac, and Wake all found themselves in the Caribbean. The Bobcats finished fifth, following up a quarterfinal overtime win over future MAAC rival Iona Gaels with a double OT semifinal loss to the UConn Huskies and a plain old regulation defeat at the hands of the George Mason Patriots in the third-place game. In the seventh-place game, the Demon Deacons defeated the Bears to avoid an embarrassing 0-3 trip. Wake lost to UConn and Iona in their previous games in St. Thomas.

What About Other Basketball Travelers Events?

Basketball Travelers has assisted the Great Alaska Shootout in filling out its fields in its final years. Since that arrangement began in 2015, Drexel (2015) and Drake (2016) made the trip to Anchorage. Curiously, both teams went 0-for-Alaska.

Are There Any Other Notable Recent Meetings Between These Teams?

Just last season, Drexel routed Quinnipiac and Houston took out Liberty—each by 17 points on December 21st! However, the Dragons got their win on the road.

Colorado opened the 2014-15 season with a 65-48 victory over Drexel in Boulder. Wake Forest defeated Mercer by three in a mid-November showdown two years earlier.

Drake and Drexel again missed each other in the 2012 edition of what’s now the Wooden Legacy. Both fell into the consolation bracket but didn’t meet up.

Who Won 2016’s Edition?

The Creighton Bluejays pretty much obliterated the competition last November, blasting the Washington State Cougars by 26 in the quarterfinals, the North Carolina State Wolfpack by 18 in the semifinals, and the Ole Miss Rebels by an almost pedestrian 86-77 margin in the final.

Did Any 2016 Teams Reach The Postseason?

After an injury to (and eventual arrest of) Maurice Watson, the Bluejays fell off, dropping down to the six line of the NCAA bracket, and an eventual First Round loss to the Rhode Island Rams. Ole Miss did reach the NIT, where the Rebels lost to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the quarterfinals in Oxford. The other six squads, including a disappointing N.C. State squad that eventually changed coaches, remained home for March.

Will This Event Be On TV?

And here’s where the Paradise Jam might run into trouble in future seasons. After years of FSN and then CBS Sports Network televising half the games with the rest streaming for free on the event’s website, all 12 Paradise Jam contests this season will stream on FloHoops.com, which is a subscription service. Given the plethora of other exempt tournament options out there, many of which feature exposure on either ESPN or a Fox outlet, it might be difficult for power conference teams to sign up for an event operating on such a subscription model.

Who’s Your Pick To Win It?

Given the draw, Houston, which won the 2016 Gulf Coast Showcase, could claim its second early season title in succession. That’s in no small part due to a bracket that places both Colorado and Wake Forest on the bottom half. Danny Manning’s Demon Deacons, on a bit of an upswing when compared to Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes, are the most likely squad to face the Cougars for the championship.

Quarterfinals

Liberty over Mercer
Houston over Drexel
Colorado over Quinnipiac
Wake Forest over Drake

Semifinals

Houston over Liberty
Wake Forest over Colorado
(consolation) Mercer over Drexel
(consolation) Drake over Quinnipiac

Finals

Championship: Wake Forest over Houston
3rd/5th Place: Colorado over Liberty
4th/6th Place: Mercer over Drake
7th Place: Quinnipiac over Drexel

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