The last time Indiana basketball went to the Maui Invitational was in Tom Crean's first season back in 2008.
Yeah, that season, when a depleted Hoosier squad went 6-25. One of those six wins did come in Maui though, against tournament host Chaminade. Chaminade is a Division II school. The Hoosiers won by two.
Needless to say, the situation for IU has changed quite a bit in the past 7 years. The Hoosiers come into Maui this year as one of the tourney favorites, and with three very convincing victories in Assembly Hall already to their credit, expectations are high for Maui.
The tournament starts today, when the Hoosiers play Wake Forest, and goes until Wednesday night. Indiana's opponents will be determined by whoever wins and loses in the tourney, as every team in Maui gets three games. And with five of the teams ranked 80 or better by KenPom, it should be a competitive affair.
Here is the full bracket for the next three days:
Alright, let's run down the rest of the field.
First Day Opponent
Head coach: Danny Manning
KenPom ranking: 80 (#45 adjusted offense, #146 adjusted defense)
Fact their fans would like you to remember: Tim Duncan and Chris Paul went there!
Fact their fans would like you to forget: Uhh, let's just pretend that whole Jeff Bzdelik era never happened.
The rundown: Wake Forest has a very similar statistical profile to IU's previous opponent, Creighton, as the offense rates a little better and the defense a little worse than the Bluejays. Like IU, the Demon Deacons play at a fast tempo and like to score points, so tonight's game (at 5pm on ESPN2) should be high-scoring and full of action.
As you've probably noticed, IU is developing a nice little out-of-conference rivalry with Wake. Of course, there was the football victory, which now seems like it was three seasons ago even though it happened in late September. Then there's this game. And next weekend, the men's soccer team will travel to Winston-Salem for a third-round playoff game against the Demon Deacons. Back in July, we even solicited suggestions for a rivalry trophy with Wake, but my choice would be to go with the preferred condiment of each area and call it the Vinegar-Ranch Trophy.
Potential Second Day Opponents
Head coach: Chris Mullin (Yes, he still has the buzzcut.)
KenPom ranking: 155 (#234 adjusted offense, #86 adjusted defense)
Fact their fans would like you to remember: All those games they won in back the 80s with a legendary coach who wore a sweater. The Red Storm have only had a few seasons since then that have measured up to that success. This sounds vaguely familiar, huh?
Fact their fans would like you to forget: As Pacers fans likely know, Ron Artest (aka Metta World Peace) is a former SJU player. That being said, the Artest years represented the most successful era for St. John's after Lou Carnesseca retired.
The rundown: Mullin, a first-time head coach, takes over at his alma mater for Steve Lavin, and is in a tough spot, as all five starters from last year's NCAA Tournament team either graduated or transferred. The team lost handily to a D-2 program in an exhibition game, but has started the season with three wins, including a comeback victory over Rutgers. REMINDER: It is Crimson Quarry protocol to mention anytime a team defeats Rutgers in any sport.
KenPom ranking: 18 (#28 adjusted offense, #24 adjusted defense)
Fact their fans would like you to remember: They've been a pretty consistent program over the past decade and a half, and once beat that Anthony Davis Kentucky team.
Fact their fans would like you to forget: Haven't made the last three NCAA Tournaments. Also, Kevin Stallings once got reallllly mad at his player.
The rundown: After a bit of a lull, the Commodores are back in the top 25 this season. Should IU play Vandy tomorrow, the Commodores' effective height - rated 4th by KenPom with two seven-foot tall starters in Damian Jones and Luke Kornet - will be a significant challenge for the Hoosiers. Stony Brook took Vandy to overtime last week, but the Commodores held Austin Peay, a team that IU allowed to score 76 last week, to only 41 points.
Potential Final Day Opponents
Head coach: Eric Bovaird
KenPom ranking: N/A
Fact their fans would like you to remember: They once beat Virginia, back when the Cavaliers had Ralph Sampson and were ranked #1.
Fact their fans would like you to forget: Uhh, their performance in all those other Maui Invitationals.
The rundown: Chaminade is the host school every season of the tournament, which gives the school a yearly dose of ESPN exposure and a chance to play three power conference opponents. The Silverswords will play Kansas in the first game, so unless there is a UVA-level upset tomorrow, Chaminade will most likely head to the consolation bracket for the next two games.
Head coach: Dave Rice
KenPom ranking: 108 (#150 adjusted offense, #81 adjusted defense)
Fact their fans would like you to remember: UNLV were The U of college basketball in the late 80s and early 90s - winning games with swagger under Jerry Tarkanian while barely skirting around NCAA rules.
Fact their fans would like you to forget: Like Miami in football, the Runnin' Rebels have struggled to find that same level of success since Tark left Vegas.
The rundown: The Runnin' Rebels secured one of the top-rated recruits last season in Stephen Zimmerman, who decided to stay close to home instead of going to UK, and he's already making a big impact for the team. On the other hand, remember Goodluck Okonoboh? The big man was heavily recruited by the Hoosiers but decided instead to go to UNLV. However, the sophomore has been an insignificant part of the team so far, having been used on only 13.9% of possessions last season and 11.1% this season.
Head coach: Steve Alford (never heard of him)
KenPom ranking: 47 (#37 adjusted offense, #62 adjusted defense)
Fact their fans would like you to remember: Oh you know, all those national titles.
Fact their fans would like you to forget: Despite many successful recent seasons that have produced NBA stars like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, you get the feeling that most Bruins fans won't be fully happy unless a hologram John Wooden is coaching the team.
The rundown: The Bruins had one of the flukiest Sweet 16 runs in recent memory last season. Despite not being projected to make the tourney, the selection committee gave them a generous 11-seed, they beat SMU on a bad goaltending call, then waltzed over UAB, who had upset Iowa State. UCLA opened this season with an overtime home loss to Monmouth, but the Bruins rebounded with victories over Cal Poly and Pepperdine. In addition, the coach's son, Bryce Alford, is still running the point for this team, and the Bruins have a talented senior forward in Tony Parker. Also, if you're a Disney fan, you'll love that UCLA has a freshman guard named Prince Ali.
However, I really would NOT prefer for IU to face UCLA in this tournament. Sure, there's a lot of history and titles between the two, and the Hoosiers would be favored to win. But if the Bruins beat IU head to head, you better be prepared to deal with your IU alum relative loudly saying at the Thanksgiving table how "STEVIE SHOULD COME HOME AND COACH THE HOOSIERS" while they bang an entire drumstick from the turkey on the table like it's a gavel. If this sounds like someone in your family, make sure you have this blog's official opinion about Alford pulled up on your phone and at the ready to show him or her.
Head coach: Bill Self
KenPom ranking: 5 (#13 adjusted offense, #7 adjusted defense)
Fact their fans would like you to remember: Under Self, Kansas has won the last 11 straight Big 12 regular season titles, which is a pretty remarkable feat.
Fact their fans would like you to forget: Other than winning a national title in 2008, Self has a very spotty NCAA Tournament history, and his teams often finish the season with an underwhelming tourney loss. Last season's loss against in-state opponent Wichita State was no exception.
EVERY KANSAS SEASON UNDER BILL SELF, SUMMARIZED
- Start with preseason top-5 ranking with a great incoming recruiting class
- Lose to similarly ranked team very early in the season, after which everyone writes the Jayhawks off for a while
- Win a lot of Monday night 9pm Big 12 games announced by Brent Musberger, who casually references the line on the game several hundred times
- Suddenly by late February, get back into the top 5
- Win a Big 12 title, get a 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament
- Suffer shocking loss early in the tourney, often to a mid-major
Yep, this is Kansas every dang year. So far this season, they've checked off the first two boxes. They brought in a crootin' class that included Chieck Diallo, who still has not been cleared by the NCAA for some reason. Then, they lost to Michigan State in Chicago last week, tempering the team's expectations for the moment.
That being said, Kansas is still my pick to win the Maui Invitational, with their strong core of Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, and Perry Ellis (yes, he's still on the team). Were Kansas to face IU in the final game, however, we could have a very fun game on our hands (and one that I was upset did not come to fruition last year in the tourney). KU doesn't have the tallest starting lineup, and both teams play fast and shoot well, and the Jayhawks' defense would be a strong test for Indiana's high-powered offense. If the Hoosiers take care of business against Wake, and then take down Vandy, an IU-KU final on Wednesday night seems like a strong possibility.