The following is a general, but not comprehensive list of key holiday tournaments that will be held mostly before Thanksgiving and a few that will start up in early December. All times listed are in Eastern Standard Time.
Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico
November 19, 11:30 a.m. Temple/Minnesota ESPNU
1:30 p.m. Butler/Missouri State ESPNU
Times TBD Miami/Mississippi State and Utah/Texas Tech
Semifinals, November 20 at 1 and 7 p.m. ESPN2?/ESPNU
Championship, November 22 at 7:30 p.m. ESPN2
Game to DVR: Minnesota/Temple
Gildan Charleston Classic, TD Arena in Charleston, South Carolina
Skinny: Should be Virginia’s tournament to lose.
November 19, Noon Ole Miss/George Mason ESPN2
2 p.m. Oklahoma State/Towson ESPN2
Times TBD Virginia/Bradley and Long Beach State/Seton Hall
Semifinals, November 20 1 p.m. ESPN2 or ESPNU
9:30 p.m. ESPNU
Championship, November 22 at 9:30 p.m. ESPN2
Skinny: If Virginia loses, consider that an early season bracket shaker-upper.
2k Classic, Madison Square Garden in New York City
November 20 and 22 featuring Georgetown/Wisconsin and Duke/VCU
Skinny: All four teams in this field will more than likely be in the field of 68 for 2016. This tournament replaces the long-standing Preseason NIT, which I explain below at its’ new location.
Paradise Jam, UVI Sports and Fitness Center in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands Coverage to be featured either on FS1 or AXS.tv (the former HDNet)
November 20 Ohio/Tulsa, Indiana State/Norfolk State, Hofstra/Florida State, and DePaul/South Carolina. Semifinals on November 22, finals on November 23.
Skinny: If Ohio coach Saul Phillips doesn’t blow his top by the end of the first half, it might be curtains early for the Bobcats. I like Florida State, but look out for South Carolina–possible darkhorse that could sneak into the Big Dance.
Hall of Fame Tip-Off, Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut
November 21 and 22, teams will play in separate brackets:
Florida/St. Joseph’s (PA), Purdue/Old Dominion, Vermont/Niagara, Buffalo/NC A&T
Skinny: Big schools in the Naismith Bracket, smaller schools in the Springfield brakcet. Now that matter is all straightened out, expect Purdue to dominate but Old Dominion is in a similar position like SMU was this time a year ago–on the outside of the NCAA bubble picture when Selection Sunday came and went. I also expect the Vermont/Niagara game to be a good one. Good luck trying to find any of the games either on local campus radio or the WatchESPN app.
Gulf Coast Showcase, Germain Arena in Estero, Florida
November 23, Noon Murray State/Wisconsin-Milwaukee
2:30 p.m. Pepperdine/Duquesne
6 p.m. Western Kentucky/Drake
8:30 p.m. Central Michigan/Weber State
Skinny: Started a few years ago, this has the possibility of becoming a solid mid-major tournament. Murray State, Central Michigan, and Pepperdine are schools to keep an eye on. Again, good luck finding the games on campus radio or the WatchESPN app.
Maui Invitational, Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Hawaii (should be nice).
What a field this is going to be during ESPN’s Feast Week:
Monday, November 23 2:30 p.m. St. John’s/Vanderbilt ESPN2
5 p.m. Wake Forest/Indiana ESPN2
9 p.m. Kansas/Chaminade (the host school) ESPNU
11:30 p.m. UNLV/UCLA ESPN2
Semifinals Tuesday, November 24 7:30 and 10 p.m. ESPN
Championship Wed. November 25 Time TBD, more than likely 10 p.m. ESPN
Skinny: Might be worth DVR’ing that last quarterfinal, but Kansas/Indiana for old time’s sake would be an awesome final for Turkey Eve.
Legends Classic, Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Exempt Semifinal pairings: LSU/Marquette and Arizona State/NC State
A subregional will also be staged at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio, which will feature Bucknell, Detroit, Maryland-Eastern Shore, and the host school in Toledo.
Skinny: First major moment to watch the Number 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 in LSU’s Ben Simmons. Marquette should be improved and Arizona State has former Duke star Bobby Hurley as coach. North Carolina State should also be solid as well.
CBE Hall of Fame Classic, Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
November 23 North Carolina/Northwestern and Missouri/Kansas State
Skinny: Should be North Carolina’s tournament to lose. And will Northwestern finally turn the corner towards possibly breaking their non NCAA Tournament jinx by 2017?
Great Alaska Shootout, Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, Alaska
Held November 24 through 28, most games on CBS Sports Network.
Matchups have not been determined, but these schools will be packing more than their parkas in the snow covered and very short roads that dot one of Alaska’s largest cities: Drexel, Loyola (Illinois), Middle Tennessee, UNC Asheville, San Diego, San Jose State, and Toledo.
Skinny: Think of this as BracketBusters in November. Drexel, Toledo, and maybe Middle Tennessee might sneak up and win it, but overall this tournament is not what it once was when ESPN2 was carrying it late on Thanksgiving Night.
Cancun Challenge, Maya Convention Center in Cancun, Mexico
Similar to the Hall of Fame Classic, there will be a two-tiered approach:
Mayan Division (smaller schools)–South Dakota State/Houston Baptist and Rider/Cleveland State
Riviera Division (larger schools)–Maryland/Illinois State and Rhode Island/TCU
Skinny: Maryland will probably be the Number 1 ranked team by this point in the month, and Illinois State should give their best effort in halting their heralded offense.
Battle 4 Atlantis, Imperial Arena in Paradise Island, Bahamas
In just five years, this is one tournament not to miss.
November 25 Georgetown/Washington ESPN
Texas A&M/Texas later in the day AXStv
UNC Charlotte/Syracuse ESPN
Later that night–Michigan/UConn AXStv
Semifinals: Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 26 both on ESPN
Championship: Friday, November 27 (along with 3rd place game) ESPN
Skinny: Most of these teams are definitely Sweet 16 worthy, but the wildcard in the whole bunch could be Washington–make or break year up in Seattle.
NIT Season Tip-Off, Barclays Arena in Brooklyn, N.Y.
No longer the tournament that it once was, but these games could be worth DVR’ing–but expect Villanova to win in a cakewalk.
November 26 and 27 will feature Georgia Tech, Stanford, Villanova, and Arkansas. Matchups and TV information TBD.
Wooden Legacy, Two Venues
First Round and Semifinals, November 26 and 27 at Titan Gym, Orange County, California
Championship: November 29, Honda Center in Anaheim, California
Early matchups: Arizona/Santa Clara, Boise State/UC Irvine, Michigan State/Boston College, Providence/Evansville. All games to air on ESPN2 and ESPNU, check listings when tournament draws closer.
Skinny: Arizona/Santa Clara is a rematch of the 1993 NCAA First Round upset when Steve Nash engineered a 15 seed upset of the then second seeded Wildcats. In any other year, Tom Izzo would put a stamp with his Gang Green bunch of Spartans, but they are without a majority of their scoring and rebounding from last season’s surprise Final Four entrant. But like I have said in this space for the last two seasons, don’t count Tom Izzo when the chips are down. Michigan State and UC Irvine are definitely the Jekyll and Hyde bunch for 2015-2016 as far as this blog reporter is concerned.
AdvoCare Invitational, formerly known as the Orlando Classic and Old Spice Classic, will be held at Disney World, inside HP Field House
November 26 Just in case if you are not interested in seeing the annual Turkey Day snoozefest which is the Detroit Lions, I just have the cure for you:
Noon Alabama/Xavier ESPN2
2 p.m. Wichita State/USC
6:30 p.m. Notre Dame/Monmouth ESPNU
8 p.m. Iowa/Dayton
Skinny: Just in case you are on the road come Turkey Day, definitely DVR this first day. Great matchups with quality programs and excellent coaches up and down the slate. On paper, expect Wichita State and Notre Dame possibly to match up in the final.
Semifinals: November 27, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Championship: November 29 at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Emerald Coast Classic, Northwest Florida State College Arena in Destin, Florida
To take place November 27 and 28, featuring Iowa State/Virginia Tech and Illinois/UAB.
Skinny: I expect Iowa State to be solid, even with Steve Prohm taking over for the departing Fred Hoiberg. Illinois lost some key players due to off the court issues, so they might be struggling for respectability as they await their refurbished digs at the renamed State Farm Center to take shape (more on that briefly in the blog that you can read below).
Challenge in Music City, Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee
Round-robin format to take place November 28 through the 30th. Will feature Drake, Murray State, Portland, and Valparaiso.
Skinny: Expect Murray State and Valparaiso to do really well in this type of format. Even more, the Crusaders might do better than last year’s team as far as wins for the season is concerned–something to keep an eye on.
To finish this neat blog post…
Besides the second annual CBS Sports Classic to take place in Brooklyn, there is one pre-Christmas tournament that might be worth watching:
Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu
Sing “Deck The Halls” after seeing this slate of games:
December 22, Oklahoma/Washington State, Northern Iowa/Hawaii, BYU/Harvard, Auburn/New Mexico
Semifinals on December 23, championship on Christmas Night.
Skinny: I wonder what type of garb Liz Claman’s brother-in-law of Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl will be donning that festive week. Among the matchups, I think that the BYU/Harvard game is going to be a classic–one team that likes to run in the Cougars and the Crimson looking to slow things down to a near crawl.
There you have it. As we have learned over the last several years, these tournaments will be the first major indicator for the Selection Committee as far as which schools could have the inside track on grabbing one of the top four seeds come March of 2016.
Most importantly, I am already starting to dream about these matchups for future NCAA Tournament play. Should be bundles and bundles of joy, as long as you can find the Hawaiian tournament on your cable station sandwiched before the annual goody bag that is the ESPN/ABC slate of five NBA games on Christmas Day.