The title game of the Old Spice Classic may not be the kind of matchup that leads off SportsCenter like say, North Carolina/Kentucky next week, but it is a contest that we could look back on in March when discussing tournament resumes. Dayton (4-1) and Minnesota (6-0) meet in the title game, with both surviving a pair of close games to reach this point.
The championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational provides undefeated UNLV (6-0) with not only a great opportunity but also a great measuring stick, as they take on #1 North Carolina (5-0) at the Orleans Arena. The Rebels fought off a USC team that may not be long on talent but they do make you earn everything, and UNC wasn't challenged much by South Carolina in the nightcap. Whether or not Dave Rice's team can beat the Tar Heels likely depends on the play of their most recent UCLA transfer, forward Mike Moser (15.0 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 3.2 spg).
The game between Duke and Kansas more than lived up to the pregame expectations on Wednesday night, but it was an unsung hero who stepped to the forefront late. Tyler Thornton, essentially a defensive substitute when Austin Rivers picked up his fourth foul, knocked down a pair of critical three pointers late to catapult the Blue Devils to the 68-61 win. Duke earned their fifth Maui Invitational title and moved to 15-0 all-time in the prestigious early season event.
Two of the blue bloods in college basketball get together in Maui with the Maui Invitational title on the line as #6 Duke (6-0) takes on #14 Kansas (3-1), and there are a number of interesting players to keep an eye on. The player under the microscope nationally for the Blue Devils has been freshman guard Austin Rivers, with some failing to remember the lesson taught last season regarding the mistake of knee-jerk reactions to games in November (see: Barnes, Harrison).
After both teams won their semifinal games at the CBE Classic in blowout fashion, Missouri (4-0) and California (4-0) should have a stiffer challenge on their hands as they play for the championship in Kansas City. Neither team has much of an issue with playing fast. but given their roots in the "40 Minutes of Hell" system used by former coach Mike Anderson the Tigers could be at an advantage if the pace becomes frenetic.
One of the keys in playing against Michigan is to remain composed and execute your game plan. Getting away from what you do well in attempts to get the Wolverines to play a style other than their own more times than not results in a loss. That was the lesson for the Memphis Tigers, who in spite of their athletic talents have some maturing to do before referring to themselves as sure-fire national title contenders. Tim Hardaway Jr.
Monday marks the beginning of one of the most prestigious in-season tournaments as the Maui Invitational begins at the Lahaina Civic Center. The big game of the day: Michigan taking on Memphis, with both teams having designs on bigger things after seeing their seasons end in tough fashion on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament last year. Josh Pastner's Tigers have played just one game on the season but they were impressive in that appearance, beating Belmont 97-81 on Tuesday.
In-season tournaments can be tricky to analyze when the dust settles. Sometimes the winning team can build on the experience and move on to bigger and better things, with last year's Connecticut team (Maui Invitational champs) being a prime example. Others, like Minnesota (last year's Puerto Rico Tip-Off champs) can temporarily hide flaws that get exposed later in the season. Essentially these early season results should be taken with a grain of salt, because while we see flashes of teams in reality it's a small sample size.
In the latest installment in his "Coaching Greats" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel caught up with Johnny Orr, who won a combined 427 games at Michigan and Iowa State while also leading the schools to a combined ten NCAA Tournament appearances. Orr led Michigan to the 1976 NCAA title game, where they fell to fellow Big Ten member Indiana, who capped the final undefeated season in NCAA history with the win.