The Maui Invitational is one of the most prestigious tournaments in college basketball, and it marks the unofficial start to the college basketball season. The tournament’s history originates from one of the greatest upsets in sports history, when Chaminade beat Virginia in 1982. Three times Maui winners have gone on to win the national championship. Here then, a team by team preview of the Maui field, and we’ll see if any of these teams have a shot.
Arizona barely made the NCAA Tournament last year, and that was with Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger. They had an elite offense, but couldn’t defend to save their lives. Given that Hill was a pretty good defender, it doesn’t appear that it will get much easier for the Wildcats this year. They haven’t been tested yet in two wins over Northern Arizona and Rice, so their first game vs. Wisconsin should be interesting.
Cincy struggled in their opener vs. Prairie View A&M but this team has loads of talent. Lance Stephenson was all set to go to Kansas before Xavier Henry did, and now he is set to be the man at Cincinnati. He hasn’t had a good start (39.1 EFG) but he has the most talent on the team and as he gets adjusted to the college game I look for him to improve immensely.
There’s not much that can be said about the Buffs. They suck. But, they do have a North Dakota native on the team so I like them.
Last week we took a look at the 2009 Zags. They’ll probably be the favorites to win the 2009 tournament due to the close game they had with Michigan State, and they probably should be given their defense. One thing to watch would be a potential 2nd round matchup with Wisconsin. The Zags have averaged almost 80 possessions per game this year, and Wisconsin is notoriously slow.
Obviously Greivis Vasquez is the headline getter, but he’s had a rough go of it shooting-wise so far (33.3% EFG, 89.4 O-Rating). He has picked up other areas of his game though with a 31.8% assist rate. The Terps haven’t been tested at all yet, as evidenced by their 69.5 defensive efficiency, but they’ll have to do better than a 53% EFG to make any noise in Maui.
Vandy could make some noise in the SEC this year due to the fact that A. The SEC isn’t any good and B. Vandy shoots the three pretty well. They are shooting almost 41% this year, although they shot just 34% last season. Vandy needs to offensive rebound a bit better, although a step forward from Jefferey Taylor should help things out.
I would enjoy typing their section like they enjoy playing, but me typing super slow doesn’t really do anything for you. Last year Wisconsin was the 11th slowest team in Division 1 at only 59.9 possessions per game. This year they’re at 62 possessions per game, hopefully they don’t get worn out from going too fast. Wisconsin can’t rebound the offensive glass at all (221st last year) but they are phenomenal defensively (4th overall). Jon Leuer has been the Badgers’ best player this year with a 126.8 ORating and 12% block percentage.
I have no idea who to pick in this field. Truthfully it underwhelms me quite a bit. In the end I am going to go with the team (I’m assuming) the mainstream media will tap and pick Gonzaga.