Offer a college student a trip to Maui in November and they are bound to jump at the chance. However, for the college athletes competing in the EA Sports Maui Invitational there won’t be any hot fun in the sun – the only tan they will get is from floor burns.
The 2006 edition of the premier in-season tourney kicks off this Monday, and as per usual the field is stacked once again. This go around half of the field (UCLA, Memphis, Kentucky and Georgia Tech) is ranked in the top 25. This fact alone guarantees some intriguing early season matchups are bound to occur in Maui. While the act of predicting winners is always a precarious venture, it is especially so at such an early stage of the season (see, Oral Roberts-Kansas). With that caveat, here is how the tournament shapes up:
Game 1 – Oklahoma vs. Memphis
Both teams lost a ton of talent from last season’s squads (Gray, Bookout and Everett for the Sooners; Carney, Williams and Washington for the Tigers). The main difference is that the Sooners lost their coach, while the Tigers held on to theirs. Coach Cal’s bunch appear more likely to overcome their losses – look for Memphis to beat Jeff Capel’s debut Oklahoma team.
Game 2 – Purdue vs. Georgia Tech
The Boilermakers return a couple of the Big Ten’s finest in Carl Landry and David Teague. On the other side of the court the Yellow Jackets will be relying on two of this years most highly touted freshmen – Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young. Expect youth to prevail – Tech goes on to the semis.
Game 3 – Depaul vs. Kentucky
It is far too early in the season to tell if much maligned Tubby Smith has gotten the Wildcats going in the right direction or not. The Blue Demons definitely aren’t headed the right way after losing their opening two games this year to Bradley and Northwestern. Kentucky prevails in this matchup.
Game 4 – Chaminade vs. UCLA
After appearing in last year’s Championship Game, UCLA lost 3 players to the NBA (Ryan Hollins, Jordan Farmar and Cedric Bozeman). Despite this fact the Bruins are still in good shape and it wouldn’t be a shock if they made it to the Final Four once again. Look for Arron Afflalo and the Bruins to roll over the host Chaminade squad.
In the semis Memphis should get by Georgia Tech while UCLA should have no problems with Kentucky. In the finals the Bruins will be crowned Kings of Maui.