Family? Food? Football? What is your favorite part of the week of Thanksgiving? For me, it’s the holiday college basketball tournaments that give us the chance to see marquee match-ups in late November. I would like to think that every family has one person that fights animal cruelty to watch college basketball over The National Dog show, but as I’ve grown to understand, not everyone shares the depth of caring about animal rights as I do. Moral of the story: watch college basketball instead of the National Dog Show after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Why? Because there’s no greater gift to be thankful for than having a belly full of turkey and a television schedule full of college basketball (and solidarity with the dogs).
Let’s take a look at three of the most compelling holiday tournaments for 2017.
Maui Jim Maui Invitational: November 20-22
The Maui Jim Maui Invitational is intriguing to me because, based on my predictions for the road to the Final Four, the draw is set up to showcase a battle between Wichita State and Notre Dame in the championship game. The matchup would feature two teams that are experienced and ready to play a big time game in November. Wichita State, led by sophomore point guard Landry Shamet, also features four seniors who are averaging double figures. The Fighting Irish showcase Preseason All-American Bonzie Colson who is averaging a double-double and point guard Matt Farrell is one of the best in the nation. My pick to win the Maui Jim Maui Invitational is the Wichita State Shockers in a track meet.
The Battle 4 Atlantis: November 22-24
The Battle 4 Atlantis is one of my favorite events in college basketball. This year the field features a possible #5 Villanova vs. #3 Arizona contest in the championship game. After both schools had early exits in last year’s NCAA Tournament, they are both back with a vengeance. Villanova is a deep team with six players averaging double figures led by a back court of Donte DiVincenzo and Jalen Brunson. Arizona is led by Allonzo Trier who is averaging 30 points per game and Deandre Ayton, one of the top freshmen in the country. My pick for the winner of the Battle 4 Atlantis is easy. The Wildcats will take home the trophy.
Phil Knight Invitational: November 23-24, 26
The Phil Knight Invitational (PK80) is in honor Nike’s founder and CEO’s 80th birthday in February. The invitational features two, eight-team brackets, the Victory Bracket and Motion Bracket. The Victory Bracket sets up a possible championship game between North Carolina and Michigan State. The Tar Heels, led by Luke Maye, Theo Pinson, and Joel Berry II, have veteran leadership and a balanced offensive attack that can lead them through the field to the championship game. Tom Izzo will have his team ready to bounce back from a tough loss to Duke in the Champions Classic. My pick is for Michigan State to win the Victory Bracket in a hard fought high scoring affair.
The Motion Bracket features what could be a preview of an Elite Eight matchup if my seed projections for the NCAA Tournament turn out to be correct: Duke vs. Florida. Duke looks to be the best team in the country so far. With Marvin Bagley III back from the eye injury he suffered against Michigan State in the Champions Classic, Duke will look to dominate in the PK80. Grayson Allen is playing the best basketball of his career with Trevon Duval beside him in the back court. The Florida Gators, led by sharp-shooting Rice transfer Egor Koulechov, will be a tough out for the Blue Devils, but I think that at this stage in the season, Duke will prevail and win the Motion Bracket.
Other Tournaments to Keep an Eye On (Projected Winners BOLD)
Legends Classic: Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Pittsburgh
CBE Hall of Fame Classic: Baylor, Creighton, UCLA, Wisconsin
MGM Main Event: UNLV, Rice, Ole Miss, Utah
Cayman Islands Classic: Cincinnati, Iowa, Louisiana, Wyoming, Buffalo, South Dakota State, Richmond, UAB
NIT Season Tip-Off: Rhode Island, Seton Hall, Vanderbilt, Virginia
Las Vegas Invitational: Hampton, Northern Arizona, Xavier, George Washington, Kansas State, Arizona State, Rider, UC Irvine
AdvoCare Invitational: Missouri, St. John’s, Oregon State, West Virginia, Long Beach State, Nebraska, Marist (what a joke), UCF