Early Tournaments At Risk: NCAA Basketball Predictions

Early Tournaments At Risk: NCAA Basketball Predictions
Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images/AFP

Losing early-season tournaments on the hardwood is a huge loss to fans and college basketball bettors alike. Even those with a sickening amount of optimism are finding it tough to believe the college hoops season begins on time. Just a little more than two months from the original date for the 2020-21 campaign to tip, it’s even difficult to put much thought or concern into the matter considering the more pressing issues being dealt with within the country.

The most realistic date might be January 1, if only because staff at campuses where college football is played would be hard-pressed to follow all safety guidelines for a basketball team at the same time. When the season begins isn’t even the biggest cloud hanging over the sport right now. Instead, the very real prospect of not being able to finish with a Big Dance for a 2nd-straight year is the worst-case given how much revenue it adds to NCAA coffers.

Understandably taking a backseat at the moment is the loss of the early-season tournaments, something fans and bettors have to simply accept. While casual fans don’t even pay attention to the game until March Madness, those tournaments give bettors something to fall back on when sorting through college basketball picks come March Madness.

Coach Cal Has Idea For Champions Classic

John Calipari
John Calipari – Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

As they stack up right now, we’re going to have much shorter schedules with most conferences playing anywhere from 10-15 games within their own leagues, plus potentially adding 3-4 more nonconference contests. A lot will depend on what NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt tells us in September when an announcement is expected for an official start date.

Though not a traditional bracketed tournament, the Champions Classic was supposed to be the icing on the cake of the first day of the season, and Kentucky head coach John Calipari believes it and other events can still be played by following the lead of the NBA bubble setup. Calipari is suggesting his Wildcats still get together with Kansas, Michigan State, and Duke for a round-robin, giving each team three games over a 6-8 day period. All four of those schools rank near the top at BetOnline in the futures column. Kentucky and Kansas are 12/1 picks to win the NCAA Tournament, with Duke (+1400) and Michigan State (+1600) trailing closely behind.

Aloha, Maui Classic

If the Rose Bowl is the ‘Granddaddy of Them All’ when it comes to college football bowl games, the Maui Classic is its equal among early hardwood tournaments. The whole idea of preseason tourneys grew from the huge upset Chaminade pulled off against No. 1 Virginia in 1982, and though many others have grown in stature the last 10 years or so, the event out on the islands remains the most prestigious.

Sadly, we can kiss that one goodbye this time with there being almost zero chance schools from the mainland can afford to travel to Hawaii. It’s not even feasible to send any team out there with the 14-day quarantine for all arriving travelers that Hawaii Governor David Ige just extended. Such a shame since it was going to be another exciting Thanksgiving Week in Honolulu with North Carolina leading a field that included Davidson, UNLV, Stanford, Alabama, Indiana, Providence, and Texas.

Battle 4 Atlantis has quickly risen to the same level of the Maui Classic in terms of a marquee field, and this year’s might have even been a stronger group with some of the top teams on the NCAA basketball futures. While the Bahamas do not require a lengthy quarantine like Hawaii, it’s still doubtful schools will go to the expense of traveling there to play in an empty arena. Duke headlined this year’s B4A lineup, joined by Creighton (+1800) and West Virginia (+1600). Memphis, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Utah, and Wichita State completed the lineup.

Will Baylor & Gonzaga Bubble Up?

Baylor Bears Gonzaga Bulldogs
Baylor Bears & Gonzaga Bulldogs – Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images/AFP

While most of the news recently has centered around the cancellation of games, Baylor and Gonzaga announced they would play each other at some point this season. Details of exactly how, when, and where the game would be played weren’t released, but it would be a huge meeting between two of the top teams on college basketball odds boards.

The Bears and Bulldogs have met five times previously, most recently in the second round of the 2019 West Regional. Gonzaga has won all five clashes, and it will be an intriguing matchup between the offensive firepower of the Bulldogs and Baylor’s strong defense. It’s quite possible a sixth meeting could become part of a bubble with two additional teams that will be scrambling to find replacement games for an early tournament that was canceled.