PAC-10 Basketball

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Special Preview: Mauii Invitational

Posted by naterb on November 21, 2009

If you’re so much of a basketball snob that the college hoops season doesn’t begin until the Mauii Invitational or NIT Season Tip-off, then you’ve missed out on a lot of quality games already.

But that’s no reason you can’t jump in and get excited about this week’s Mauii Invitational – the 26th Annual. I’m not going to bore you with the history of the tournament  – that wouldn’t be fun for you to read or even for me to write.  

The Tournament begins Monday and ends with the Championship game at 10 pm on Wednesday. The tournament continues to bring in quality teams as Arizona, Gonzaga, Maryland and Wisconsin highlight this year’s bracket – all of which have a legitimate shot at winning the tournament if the cards fall their way.

So not to throw you off: In parentheses next to each team is their all-time Mauii Invitational record.

Game One: Colorado vs. Gonzaga (3-3)

After a phenomenal 2008 campaign, the Bulldogs had a lot of holes to fill as they returned just one starter – guard Matt Bouldin. But the Bulldogs have received contributions from new starters center Robert Sacre, guard Steven Gray, and freshman forward Elias Harris. With all four averaging double-figures through three games, including a loss to Michigan State, the Bulldogs are a pleasant surprise this season.

Colorado will have a tough time matching up against the taller, longer Bulldogs as they look to rebound from a 9-22 season with the misfortunes of a 12 game losing skid. Guards Cory Higgins and Alec Burks lead the Buffaloes onslaught. But in an up-tempo matchup, the Buffaloes simply won’t be able to keep up with the Bulldog workhorses.

What to watch for: An up-tempo shoot-out between Colorado’s Cory Higgins and Gonzaga’s Matt Bouldin.

Key to the Game: Both teams have quality backcourts, so the trump card becomes the paint. The team that controls the glass and the inside scoring will come out on top – barring a prolific 3-point shooting night.

Game Two: Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt (6-3, 1986 Champ)

Vanderbilt won 19 games last year with a young team. Now, after returning all five starters, the Commodores are looking to return to the post-season. The Commodores will be led by senior Jermaine Beal and center A.J. Ogilvey, providing a nice inside-out game.

Despite that, the Commodores will have their hands full with the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats, led by senior Deonta Vaughn and a deep, strong frontcourt are an explosive, deep team that have the capability of wearing opponents down. It’s clear this will be the marquee match-up of the opening round.

What to watch for: Break out the boxing gloves as this will be a slugfest to the end with punches flying from the block and beyond the arc from both sides of the ball.

Key to the Game: Beal vs. Vaughn – There’s little question these two are the hearts of their respective teams, whoever comes out on top will lead their team to victory.

Game Three: Chaminade (5-68) vs. Maryland (5-4)

Who are we kidding? Chaminade is effectively a bye-week for whoever draws them in throughout the tournament. The Silverswords lack depth, talent, and a real scoring threat. If the Silverswords are fortunate, Maryland will be merciful and end it quick before plugging in their bench to close the final five minutes of the game.

Maryland on the other hand is likely the best team in the tournament. Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne, and Dino Gregory combine for the best starting line-up of the Mauii field, and are supported by a deep bench.

What to watch for: Vasquez is an electrifying player who has the ability to put on a show against stiff defenses – what will he do to the Silverswords?

Key to the Game: Maryland just needs to take care of business, period.

Game Four: Arizona (8-4, 2000 Champ) vs. Wisconsin (1-2)

Arizona is making their fifth appearance in the Mauii Invitational, this time with a new head coach. Miller is looking for consistency from a young team with a lot of potential. While it is a tall order for a young team that has looked shaky on both sides of the ball so far this season to jump up to the next level with a team like the Badgers, the ‘Cats have the potential and coaching to be able to do it.

Led by seniors Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannan, the Badgers will match-up well in the backcourt with the Wildcats, but will have a decided edge in the paint against an inexperienced ‘Cats frontcourt. The Badgers, who will look to slow things down and work their half-court offense should expect big games from Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil on the blocks.

What to watch for: Nic Wise will have to use his head remember to play team basketball infront of NBA scouts and against one of the coaches who snubbed him by leaving him off the USA World Unversity Team this past summer.

Key to the Game:  Tempo – If the ‘Cats can speed up the tempo of the game, they should be able to pull of the win. Fail, and Wisconsin holds the advantage to advance.


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