The championship game for the 32nd annual Maui Invitational is set, and this year’s matchup looks primed be a dandy like so many other title games in the tourney’s history.
Vanderbilt clinched its spot in the final with its second straight rout, defeating Wake Forest 88-64. The Commodores did what Indiana could not-defeat the Demon Deacons, and did so with authority. Vandy will take on Kansas in the final after the Jayhawks also won their second straight game in blowout fashion, this time steamrolling UCLA 92-73 in a game that wasn’t that close.
This year’s Maui field was slightly less stacked than it has been in recent years, but make no mistake-on paper, this championship game is matching two worthy teams and should fit in quite nicely with this tourney’s legacy of high-quality finals. The game also follows a trend of the two previous years of title games in Maui featuring one blue blood and one upwardly mobile challenger.
Arizona (over San Diego State) and Syracuse (over Baylor) won those games, but by a combined nine points. The Wildcats defeated SDSU by just two last year, one of nine times this tourney’s championship game has been decided by three points or less.
Damian Jones (17 points, 10 rebounds against Wake Forest), Wade Baldwin IV (also 17 vs. Wake), Wayne Selden (18 points, five rebounds, seven assists against Chaminade), Frank Mason (14, six and seven against the Silverswords) and Perry Ellis (24 points against UCLA) bring plenty of star power to Wednesday’s title bout. The Commodores will have to deal with the Jayhawks’ backcourt, but if they can then this one should be a blast, start to finish.
- Say this about Maryland: the team knows how to finish games. Illinois State led by five with less than eight minutes to go, but the Terrapins closed on a 25-9 run to win 77-66 in the Cancun Challenge semifinals. The game followed a similar pattern to the Terps’ win over Georgetown last week, with Maryland once again catching fire and scoring with brutal efficiency late to overcome a deficit. The Terrapins now face Rhode Island in the tourney final after the Rams edged TCU 66-60.
- North Carolina also followed the Maryland script, but not before very nearly losing for the second time in three games. Kansas State led 67-59 with just over four minutes left, but the Tar Heels finished the game on a 21-3 run for an 80-70 victory and the CBE Hall of Fame Classic title.
- Improbably, Marquette is champion of the Legends Classic after defeating Arizona State in the final 78-73 in overtime. The Golden Eagles grew up a lot the last few days after some tough love from coach Steve Wojciechowski. Meanwhile, LSU concluded a thoroughly disappointing two days with an 83-72 overtime loss to N.C. State. Ben Simmons had just four points, though he still finished with a double-double with 14 rebounds and 10 assists.
- The Gulf Coast Showcase final is set and will feature Murray State and Weber State. The Racers edged Pepperdine 59-55 in a wonderfully even matchup, while the Wildcats handled Drake 74-58.
- Valparaiso concluded its Oregon swing with a split, posting an impressive 63-57 win over Oregon State in a game that wasn’t that close most of the way. Valpo is far from the Alec Peters show anymore; Tevonn Walker and Shane Hammink both scored 15 points each to lead the offense.
- A peril of conferences having their own TV networks is sometimes they expose their own league to embarrassment, and in front of larger audiences than a mere local broadcast would. A Big Ten Network doubleheader on Tuesday first saw Radford win at Penn State 86-74, giving the Highlanders their second brand name scalp of the season after also defeating Georgetown. Then, Ohio State lost its second straight at home, this time to Louisiana Tech 82-74. The Bulldogs are still undefeated in their first year under new coach Eric Konkol.
- A 5-0 team you need to keep an eye on: South Dakota State, which already has handled Illinois State and TCU on the road and routed Houston Baptist 92-68 last night. Most surprising 5-0 team? Perhaps Southern Illinois, which defeated a good Oakland team 97-88 Tuesday.
- Finally, top-ranked Kentucky defeated Boston University 82-62. The final result will surprise no one, but the method of arrival might, as the Terriers trailed by just eight midway through the second half.
Today’s menu: It is a full day of basketball.
- In addition to Maui, Cancun and the Gulf Coast Showcase wrapping up, the MGM Grand Main Event in Las Vegas features Massachusetts and Creighton in the final.
- The Battle4Atlantis tips off early in the day, beginning with a stout first quarterfinal matching Gonzaga and Washington (Noon EST, ESPN2). Other first round games have Syracuse vs. UNC Charlotte (2:30 p.m., ESPN2), Texas against Texas A&M and Connecticut meeting Michigan.
- The venerable Great Alaska Shootout gets underway with its first two quarterfinals, including Toledo against San Jose State (11:30 p.m., CBSSN) and San Diego taking on Loyola of Chicago (2 a.m., CBSSN).
- Outside of tournament play, Yale is at Duke (7 p.m., ESPNU). The Elis nearly took down SMU, and the Blue Devils had best not be looking too far ahead to turkey the next day.
- A solid matchup in the North Central part of the country has Montana at North Dakota State.
Have an outstanding Wednesday.