Among the 2013 field of eight are three past winners looking to cut down the nets at Lahaina Civic Center once more. Syracuse, champs in 1990 and 1998, leads the group along with Gonzaga (2009) and Dayton (2003). Arkansas, California, Baylor, Minnesota and host Chaminade complete the bracket that gets underway on Monday, Nov. 25.
Four more schools will provide lead-up matches for the tournament before the action begins in Hawaii. Coastal Carolina, Louisiana-Lafayette, Oakland and St. Francis (N.Y.) make up that quartet in games that begin Nov. 15.
Silverswords Set Sights On Another Upset
Though it wasn't officially the Maui Invitational then, it's impossible to think of this tournament without remembering Chaminade's huge upset of then No. 1 Virginia in 1982. From that game, the tourney took hold a couple of years later when Chaminade came closest to winning it, bowing out to Providence in the inaugural 1984 Maui Invitational.
The Silverswords haven't won many games over the years, usually heading to the loser's bracket after the first day. But they advanced on the winner's side of the 2012 tournament, eventually won by my pre-tourney pick Illinois, with an 86-73 win vs. Texas in the opening round. Chaminade will once again have the chance to knock off a Big 12 school with a 1st-round contest against the Baylor Bears.
Baylor, a 50/1 selection to win the NCAA Championship and 5/1 to take the Big 12 on current NCAA basketball odds, enters the season with the potential to advance to the Sweet 16 and beyond, even with the loss of star guard Pierre Jackson. Scott Drew does have his two big men back, Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin, and will turn the point over to Canadian transfer Kenny Cherry while working in talented freshman Ishmail Wainwright on the wing as well as playing the 1-spot at times.
Whoever advances from the Baylor-Chaminade opener will find the winner of the Dayton-Gonzaga contest waiting. The Flyers are looking to rebound from a tough 2012-13 campaign that ended with a 7-9 record in the A-10 and no postseason tourney. Head coach Archie Miller has to develop a new point guard to replace Kevin Dillard along with beef on the inside with the departure of Josh Benson, but this is a team very capable of surprising with a 3rd-place finish in the A-10 this time. Dayton is presently 12/1 on the NCAA futures odds to win the league where VCU (7/4) and St. Louis (5/2) are the teams to beat.
We always expect excellence from Mark Few and the Zags, and this season is no exception. The Bulldogs are 50/1 to win the 2014 NCAA Men's Championship, and Few knows he has big holes to field with Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris no longer in the fold. Gonzaga does have a solid guard trio back with Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell and David Stockton, plus Gerard Coleman who sat out last year after transferring in from Providence. Keys for this year's team are a pair of 7-footers, sophomore Przemek Karnowski and freshman Ryan Edwards.
Orange Expected To Be In Maui Finals
The other half of the bracket is led by Jim Boeheim and the Orange who are expected to take on either Gonzaga or Baylor in the championship. Syracuse's first game will come against Minnesota and the Golden Gophers' new head coach Richard Pitino who was born six years after Boeheim took the reins for the Orange.
Rick's son inherited a Minnesota team that didn't leave much after Tubby Smith was canned. The good news is the Hollins brothers, Andre and Austin, the top two scorers from a year ago are back, along with Malik Smith who did not play in 2012-13.
The Gophers will be facing yet another strong 'Cuse crew, 20/1 to win the NCAA title and 5/2 to capture the ACC crown in its first season, just behind Duke (+175). Boeheim has CJ Fair back along with Rakeem Christmas, and there's depth in the frontcourt with Michael Gbinije one to watch. The Orange are expecting a lot as well from Tyler Ennis, ranked fifth among freshman point guards by ESPN.
California and Arkansas meet in the tournament's first game, the winner advancing to take on the Syracuse-Minnesota victor. The Razorbacks could be flying under the radar right now in the third season under head coach Mike Anderson. A bit of a dark horse in the SEC with 15/1 NCAA futures odds (7th in the conference), Arkansas did lose BJ Young and Marshawn Powell, but return an experienced backcourt trio in Mardracus Wade, Rickey Scott and Rashad Madden, and all eyes are on talented freshman forward Bobby Portis Jr.
We mentioned the Golden Bears the other day when looking at some of the top freshman and potential One-&-Done players. Jabari Bird is the new rising star in Berkeley for coach Mike Montgomery. The real key for this squad is having Justin Cobbs back to run the point and get the ball to Bird as often as possible.
Keep your browser pointed to SBR for game previews and NCAA basketball picks for the Maui Invitational.