The Maui Invitational is considered one of the top early season tournaments in college basketball. The field year inand year out is loaded with the top teams in college basketball and highly touted NBA prospects. This year is no different.
Teams included in this year’s editon of the Classic are Kansas, Vanderbilt, Indiana, UNLV, UCLA, Wake Forest, St. John’s, and Chaminade University.
The Kansas Jayhawks are considered by many as the favorite to win this tournament. Led by forward Perry Ellis, the Jayhawks are 1-1 on the young season after losing to Michigan State at the United Center. Kansas has one of the strongest backcourts in the country with Frank Mason and Wayne Selden, but I would not be shocked to see other teams give the Jayhawks a run for their money in Maui.
The Indiana Hoosiers, led by Tom Crean, are looking to show the college basketball world that they’re a national contender this year. With Yogi Ferrell running the show at point and Thomas Bryant in the middle, the Cream and Crimson are going to make it tough on any team with their up tempo style of play and electric offense which is deadly from the perimeter. Troy Williams and James Blackmon are wings players who are going to make it tough on any defense they come up against.
Another squad looking to establish themselves as a top team is the Vanderbilt Commodores. The Dores return a majority of players from a 21 win team a year ago. They are led by a projected lottery pick in Damian Jones. The Dores also display a strong backcourt with Riley LaChance and Wade Baldwin. Like Indiana, Vanderbilt is a very good three point shooting team and can, and will, light up the scoreboard.
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels are looking to make themselves into a national power again this year. Coach David Rice can make that happen this year. The Rebels are deep. Led by freshman Stephen Zimmerman, the Rebels have a decent shot at making a run in this tournament with their up tempo style of play. Look for the Rebels to beat teams in Maui by trying to push the pace and wear out their opponents.
The UCLA Bruins are looking to build after making a surprise visit to the Sweet 16 last year. Led by coach Steve Alford, the Bruins return most of their players from last year’s team. Watch out for the Bruins in Maui to be a tough matchup considering they have a very experienced backcourt and know how to win big games.
As for Wake Forest, St. John’s, and Chaminade, these teams are still trying to rebuild their programs. No team in this tournament should overlook these three teams, but they are unlikely to make any big waves. Although there are no big names on these teams, look for them to fight and prove to other teams that they can play with anyone.
1st round predictions (winning teams in bold):
Game 1: Vanderbilt over St. Johns
Game 2: Indiana over Wake Forest
Game 3: Kansas over Chaminade
Game 4: UNLV over. UCLA
Semifinal 1: Indiana over Vanderbilt
Semifinal 2: Kansas over UNLV
Indiana over Kansas
In a high scoring affair, the Hoosiers are going to knock off the Jayhawks by shooting well from the perimeter and showing the country that they can play defense this year. Yogi Ferrell will be the difference maker in creating opportunities for his teammates and shutting down Kansas’ potent backcourt.