In its 34th year, the venerable Maui Invitational is college basketball’s premier in-season tournament, with its three days rightfully earning a reputation as some of the most anticipated of all of the non-conference season.
The combination of a beautiful location and serious promotional might has regularly ensured top-notch fields and terrific games. This year’s event was no exception on paper, with a mix of recent powers spiced with some of the sport’s historic programs, and the first day at the Lahaina Civic Center delivered just about everything we’ve come to expect at Maui.
There was a major upset as Georgetown upended Oregon 65-61. The Hoyas raced out-O.K., maybe trotted out-to a 17-point halftime lead, then staved off the Ducks’ late rally. This is exactly why John Thompson III’s team is so tantalizing; this is the same team that just lost at home to Arkansas State, yet here had the ability to jump all over and hang on to the win over one of the season’s Final Four favorites.
There was a mild upset, as Oklahoma State held off Connecticut’s late rally for a 98-90 win. We’ve been impressed with the Cowboys early in the season and the Huskies’ early troubles have been well-noted, but this one will start putting OSU on the national radar. Brad Underwood’s team never trailed and led by 19 midway through the second half. UConn also got just eight minutes from Terry Larrier before he departed the game with an injury.
There also was a near-upset, as Wisconsin got a battle from Tennessee before prevailing 74-62 in the tourney opener. A good development for the Badgers was 16 points from Ethan Happ and less reliance on the perimeter, while the Volunteers can be encouraged that they were able to put Wisconsin on its heels at times.
Finally, there was one blowout as North Carolina, as expected, defeated host school Chaminade 104-61. Bad draw for the Silverswords, who got the favorite coming in and a team that is clicking on all cylinders early in the season. The Tar Heels pounded it inside and outscored the hosts 46-8 in paint points and dominated the glass 52-23.
- It won’t get a fraction of the coverage it deserves, but Texas Southern’s road prowess should be one of the stories of the first 10 days of the college basketball season. After winning 67-56 at James Madison, the Tigers now have four true road wins already this season. To put that in some perspective: no other team in the country has more than two. The Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC have one road win-combined. None of those road wins are overly impressive (La Salle and Rice are the best) but that doesn’t matter-four road wins in nine days is a feat no matter who a team is playing. Including a narrow loss in its opener against Texas-Arlington, TSU has played in five road games in 10 days, and won’t even get to play at home until Jan. 14. (On top of all that, Mike Davis has an almost remade roster this year after losing four starters and almost every major contributor from last year’s SWAC regular season champions). It can’t be said enough just what an impressive feat the Tigers’ start is.
- Kansas got off to a blazing start, scoring the game’s first 17 points and cruising to an 83-63 win over UAB in a virtual home game at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. The Jayhawks now will meet Georgia in the event final after the Bulldogs got some crucial offensive rebounds late to key an 81-73 win over George Washington.
- Notre Dame’s offense was in high gear in the first half, building enough of a margin to hold off Colorado 89-83 in the Legends Classic. The Fighting Irish move to the final to meet Northwestern, a surprising 77-58 winner over Texas. That’s a big win for the Wildcats; can they back it up?
- The night also included some spicy upsets. Winthrop was one of the teams that impressed us last week in the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon with its convincing win at Manhattan, and the Eagles now have an overtime win at Illinois. Keon Johnson was absolutely brilliant-38 points. Winthrop is off to a terrific start, with its only loss coming at Florida State last weekend when Johnson did not play. Not too long after that game concluded, Bucknell knocked off Vanderbilt 75-72 in Nashville, shooting 50.9% and also outrebounding the Commodores. Nice win for the Bison-a team that, like Vanderbilt, also had a number of key players to replace this year-and for the Patriot League.
- Creighton is the champion of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands after the Bluejays rallied from a double-digit deficit to defeat Mississippi 86-77. Marcus Foster scored 25 points to cop tournament MVP honors.
- Late in the night, Valparaiso picked up a very nice 68-60 win over Alabama in the MGM Grand Main Event tourney. That’s a quality win for the Crusaders against a team that will be a tough out this year. Next, Valpo gets BYU in the final in a rematch of the two teams’ NIT semifinal game earlier this year after the Cougars blew out Saint Louis 92-62.
- San Diego State defeated California for the second straight year, topping the Golden Bears 77-65 even as Ivan Rabb returned and posted a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Good win for the Aztecs, especially after looking bad in a loss at Gonzaga last week.
- Even while not having its homecourt available yet with the O’Connell Center under renovations, Florida has had an extremely friendly schedule with four home games so far. The Gators have beaten four decent-to-very-good opponents, though, most recently docking Belmont 78-61 last night.
- One of the teams that is 5-0 to start the season is…South Dakota? Yes, the Coyotes-eighth of nine teams in the Summit League last year-are a very surprising unbeaten including two wins over the MAC after edging Kent State 80-77 at the Gulf Coast Showcase. Also winning at this event were Hofstra-a 92-90 winner over Bradley on a Deron Powers layup in the final second; Vermont, a 60-59 winner over Wofford on a winner by Trae Bell-Haynes in the final seconds, and Houston, which destroyed George Mason 93-56.
- Arkansas-Little Rock held off St. Bonaventure 68-65 in an attractive matchup as Lis Shoshi scored a career-high 16 points.
- Mississippi State got bad news as Quinndary Weatherspoon will miss the rest of the season after damaging ligaments in his wrist Sunday in the Bulldogs’ win over Boise State. It’s a major loss as Weatherspoon was the Maroons’ best player and averaged 18.8 points in the team’s first four games.
- Marquette guard Sandy Cohen has left the team, as announced Sunday by the school. Cohen was in the Golden Eagles’ rotation and a sometime-starter his first two years with the team but saw his playing time diminished this year in the team’s first four games.
- The Maui Invite continues with semifinals of Georgetown against Wisconsin and Oklahoma State challenging North Carolina.
- The Gulf Coast Showcase semifinals have Hofstra against Vermont and upstart South Dakota facing Houston.
- As mentioned above, the Legends Classic final has Notre Dame against Northwestern, while a very good consolation game pairs Texas and Colorado. Kansas and Georgia will play in the CBE Hall of Fame title game.
- Yale continues a difficult non-conference schedule with a trip to Pittsburgh.
- St. Bonaventure meets undefeated Central Michigan in an event called the Lone Star Showcase, another of those round-robin events that isn’t really a tournament.
- After losing at home to Ohio University, Georgia Tech brings in another tricky opponent when it hosts Sam Houston State.
- Interesting game between SEC and Big Ten teams as Arkansas travels north to face Minnesota.
Have a great Tuesday.