I know I’ve posted about this before, but I love me some early season Thanksgiving non-conference tournaments. Especially when they kick ass. This year’s fields in Maui, Anaheim and Orlando are outstanding, loaded with top-25 teams and NCAA caliber squads. Here are the official fields and matchups:
Maui: It’s really all about the Notre Dame-North Carolina final set up by the committee. This could be the best shot for UNC to fall other than their trip to Cameron Indoor. Notre Dame is stacked with the inside-outside combo of Harangody-McAlarney along with excellent role players like Tory Jackson and Luke Zeller. We’ve beaten North Carolina to a pulp already on here; they’re loaded more so than any team in recent memory, at least in my eyes. Notre Dame first has to deal with a sneaky St. Joe’s squad and a well-equipped Texas team to make the final, but the possibility of a November 26 ND-UNC battle is one to circle.
Anaheim: Not too many big name programs on the slate for Anaheim, but the quality of the teams is vastly underrated by most. UTEP is a definite candidate to finish second behind Memphis in Conference USA and challenge for a NCAA berth, and they have to face another possible NCAA team, Saint Mary’s, who will fight with Gonzaga and San Diego in a strong WCC. Charlotte has a shot to win the Atlantic Ten this season, so it wouldn’t shock me if they scared Herb Sendek’s team a bit. The best first round game is Providence vs. Baylor as the nightcap, and the winner gets Arizona State. Look for a must-watch ASU-Wake final here.
Orlando: This is a tremendous tournament. When you have a matchup between Maryland and Michigan State in the first round, it’s a special tourney. Tennessee better prepare for Siena, one of the top mid-majors in the nation, and it doesn’t get much easier in the second round with Georgetown. One possible semifinal pits two top-10/15 teams in Michigan State-Gonzaga, with the winner likely playing Tennessee in the final, the SEC favorite.
Chow on some turkey and, rather than football, enjoy some real quality college hoops this Thanksgiving.