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 first edition of this new event, owned by Caymax Sports, Ltd. (Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect correct information about its ownership and management. - CD) In the 2016, the Cayman Islands joined Jamaica as a new country/territory permitted to host Division I competition in preparation for this event, per the 2016-17 edition of the NCAA Division I Manual.
When And Where Is It?
The John Gray Gymnasium, a new facility in George Town on Grand Cayman, will host the eight main bracket teams from Monday, November 20 (quarterfinals) through Wednesday, November 22nd (finals).
The first edition of the Cayman Islands Classic has some potential, thanks to these four quarterfinal matchups:
- Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (Sun Belt) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (Big Ten)
- South Dakota State Jackrabbits (Summit) vs. Wyoming Cowboys (Mountain West)
- Richmond Spiders (A 10) vs. UAB Blazers (C-USA)
- Buffalo Bulls (MAC) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (American)
The Mountain West serves as the tournament’s sponsoring conference, so Wyoming claims its reserved spot.
Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?
Much like the Battle 4 Atlantis and Maui Invitational, this event features a Mainland bracket, with each of the four participants playing a pair of main bracket teams before gathering for a two-round subregional, scheduled for Chattanooga on November 20th and 21st. Unlike those two events, however, Caymax Sports, Ltd.’s CEO, Joe Wright, brought Maury Hanks of Global Sports Management aboard to serve as the tournament director. And Hanks’s relationships with teams appear to have made the organization of both the eight-team main bracket and the four-team subregional a bit easier than it often is for established events. (Note the difficulties the Maui on the Mainland had in attracting a full field this year and the Battle 4 Atlantis last season.)
For instance, in each of the past seven seasons, the Alabama State Hornets and Jacksonville State Gamecocks participated in a Global event. The Savannah State Tigers, poised to drop down to Division II after this season, have played in one in six of the past seven seasons, while the Chattanooga Mocs are an outlier—having only played in the 2015 Emerald Coast Classic and 2010 Global Sports Shootout.
Here are the on-campus matchups, all to be played before the games in the Caribbean:
- Alabama State at Iowa and South Dakota State
- Chattanooga at Wyoming and UAB
- Jacksonville State at Richmond and Buffalo
- Savannah State at Cincinnati and Louisiana
The semifinals in Chattanooga will see Jacksonville State take on Savannah State and Alabama State face the host Mocs.
Did Any Of These Teams Reach The 2017 Postseason?
Cincinnati and South Dakota State are the two 2017 NCAA participants in this field, as the Bearcats bowed out after a Second Round loss to the UCLA Bruins, while the Jackrabbits gave the Gonzaga Bulldogs a scare for about 30 minutes in their 16 vs. 1 First Round affair. However, Wyoming claimed a postseason title—as the Cowboys defeated the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers two games to one in the CBI finals. Iowa fell to the eventual NIT champs, the TCU Horned Frogs, in that tournament’s second round, while Richmond lost to that same squad one round later.
All eight main bracket teams finished last season with a winning record, but the same cannot be said for the Mainland squads. While Jacksonville State won the OVC Tournament to earn a place in the NCAAs, where the Gamecocks lost to the Louisville Cardinals in the Round of 64, only Chattanooga managed to join Ray Harper’s team on the happy side of .500. And the Mocs lost their final five games—which torpedoed their postseason hopes. Eventually, head coach Matt McCall departed for UMass.
How Strong Is This Event?
Based on the average four-year rankings of the participants, the 2017 Cayman Islands Classic ranks as follows when compared to other bracketed tournaments:
- Main Bracket: 6th of 14 eight-team bracketed tournaments; 11th of 38 bracketed tournaments
- Mainland Bracket: 18th of 24 four-team bracketed tournaments; 32nd of 38 bracketed tournaments
Have Any Of These Teams Played In This Event Before?
Nope. Unless the space-time continuum was demolished in the time since I wrote this.
What About Other Early Season Events?
UAB defeated both Alabama State and Jacksonville State in the on-campus rounds of the 2015 Emerald Coast Classic, before dropping both of its games in the hosts’ bracket in Niceville, Fla.
Are There Any Other Notable Recent Meetings Between These Teams?
For starters, the Mainland bracket has been set up to separate Alabama State and Jacksonville State, who meet during most seasons (including this one, on November 30th). However, Chattanooga, which meets the Hornets in the semifinals of the bracketed event, is scheduled to travel to Jacksonville, Ala. on December 21st.
Buffalo and South Dakota State split a 2012 and 2014 home-and-home series—the first meeting, played in Brookings in February 2012 and won by the Jackrabbits, was one of the last BracketBuster matchups. The Bulls also lost a Sun Bowl Invitational semifinal to Wyoming back in 2007.
Following Cincinnati’s departure to the Big East, the Bearcats faced UAB in four consecutive seasons spanning from 2006-07 to 2009-10, but the Blazers won three of those contests. UAB also swept a home-and-home played against Louisiana in 2007 and 2009. Most curiously, however, Mike Davis’s squad split a series with Wyoming that was played over a four-day span in November 2006! While UAB routed the Cowboys by 21 in Birmingham, the Blazers couldn’t deal with Laramie’s altitude, dropping a 93-87 decision in the return leg.
South Dakota State ruined Fran McCaffery’s Iowa debut, winning by 10 in the Hawkeyes’ 2010-11 opener. Just last season, the Jackrabbits lost at Wyoming by 10—a reversal of their first trip to Laramie, a surprising 77-61 win in their first tip of the 2009-10 campaign.
Will This Event Be On TV?
You have two options, both streaming. Subscription site FloHoops.com will have the Cayman Islands Classic among its November offerings. But CBS’s CollegeSportsLive.com, another subscription site, is also streaming the event.
for free apparently this isn’t the case after all.
Rights to on-campus games, as always, belong to broadcasters affiliated with the home team’s conference. For example, Opening Day’s Savannah State at Cincinnati game will be a noon Eastern tip on Fox Sports Ohio that’s also streamed on ESPN3.
Who’s Your Pick To Win It?
Two teams stand out when looking at this bracket—Iowa and Cincinnati—particularly with the Hawkeyes expected to improve upon last season’s rebuilding year and the Bearcats serving as the Wichita State Shockers’ main challengers for the American Athletic crown. But keep an eye on the winner of the UAB-Richmond quarterfinal, as both of those squads will be keen to win a couple of games in the Caymans to serve notice to their respective leagues’ frontrunners.
Iowa over Louisiana
South Dakota State over Wyoming
Richmond over UAB
Cincinnati over Buffalo
Iowa over South Dakota State
Cincinnati over Richmond
(consolation) Louisiana over Wyoming
(consolation) Buffalo over UAB
Championship: Cincinnati over Iowa
3rd Place: Richmond over South Dakota State
5th Place: Buffalo over Louisiana
7th Place: Wyoming over UAB