DAILY DISH: Feast Week Begins with 2011 Maui Invitational

It’s Feast Week, and that means a heaping helping of hoops for college basketball fans. And here at Roundball Daily, we’ve always got our dining Jordans on. So, before it gets cold, here’s a preview of what you’ll see over the next week-plus on ESPN, Fox Sports Network, and CBS College Sports. Think of this as the ‘grace’ before the meal.

Maui Invitational

November 21-23, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU


New Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin tests his young squad in a loaded Maui field. (Photo: US Presswire)


WHOM TO WATCH: Tennessee. It will be interesting to see how the Vols look under new head coach Cuonzo Martin, who landed in a very tough situation after ex-Vols coach Bruce Pearl was unceremoniously bounced last spring. Tennessee experienced a mass exodus this offseason, losing Tobias Harris, Scotty Hopson, Brian Williams, Melvin Goins and Steven Pearl, among others. But Martin has been in much tougher situations. He survived a very serious bout with non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma in the late 90s, during which he was “just praying to see the day when my son turned 18.” Needless to say, he won’t be afraid of this challenge. And neither will his players. Martin has all the makings of a great coach, and it will be interesting to see if the young Vols respond to a very stiff early-season test with Duke, not to mention the rest of this loaded Maui field.

UPSET TO STOMACH: Michigan over Duke. The Wolverines want revenge after last season’s one-point loss to the Blue Devils in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Michigan has a tough-to-prepare-for scheme, a puzzling 1-3-1 defense, and now, for the first time in coach John Beilein’s tenure in Ann Arbor, the athletes to compete with the best teams in the nation. Tim Hardaway, Jr. is a budding star, averaging 14.3 points per game so far this season.

PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT: Kansas F Thomas Robinson. The Jayhawks big man is already having a breakout season, averaging 14.5 points and 11.5 rebounds over two games. He will emerge as a dominant force down low, and could carry Kansas to a Maui title.

WINNER:  MICHIGAN. The Wolverines will upend Duke, which will suffer its first-ever loss in Maui, (The Blue Devils are 12-0 there all-time), and ride the momentum to a buzz-creating Maui Championship win over Kansas. If it happens, it would be a dream start to a comeback season for Michigan basketball.


Preseason NIT Semifinals

November 23-25  ESPN, ESPN2


C.J. Guerrero was a one-man dynamo in OSU’s 80-75 overtime win over UTSA. (Emily Neilsen/Oklahoma State University)


WHOM TO WATCH: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys will likely be the stiffest test to Syracuse in this Preseason NIT final four. It should be a great showcase for point guard and leader Keiton Page, although Oklahoma State has received a huge boost from C.J. Guerrero and Jean-Paul Olukemi, who have put up 15.7 and 12.7 points per game over the first three contests, respectively. Guerrero led the Cowboys back from the brink of defeat several times against Texas San-Antonio, knocking down several key threes down the stretch.

PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT: Kris Joseph, F, Syracuse. This will be the first major opportunity for Joseph to assert himself as the Orange’s go-to-guy. He’s sure talented enough to do it.


UPSET TO STOMACH:  Not sure that there is one here, but look for Virginia Tech to give Syracuse a game in the second semifinal on Wednesday night. The Hokies are led by 6-5 senior Dorenzo Hudson, who is averaging 19.3 points per game thus far, which has been an unexpected boost for the team as it looks to replace Malcolm Delaney, whom they lost to graduation.

WINNER: Syracuse. As long as the swirling off-court distractions don’t affect them, Syracuse should have few problems vanquishing the rest of this undermanned Preseason NIT field.

Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament

Nov 24-26, Fox College Sports

WHOM TO WATCH: Connecticut. UConn is clearly the class of this field, and the only big-name draw in the Bahamas. If it weren’t for the Huskies, it’d be tough to get fans off of the beach. If anyone does venture out of Paradise and into the gym, they’ll have the chance to see UConn’s first real test– if the Huskies and Florida State Seminoles each make it to the championship round.
PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT: Shabazz Napier, Connecticut. Napier’s backcourt mate Jeremy Lamb is the best player in the tournament, but the guy to watch will be Napier, who controls UConn’s destiny this season. If he has a big tournament, UConn will almost certainly walk away with the gold trophy.
UPSET TO STOMACH: Harvard over Florida State. It won’t be considered an upset if Ivy League favorite Harvard knocks off Pacific-12 team Utah, but it will be if Keith Wright, Oliver McNally and the kids from Cambridge topple the Seminoles. Head coach Tommy Amaker has this program humming like a well-oiled machine, and one of the stories of the season could begin unfolding if Harvard reaches the final in the Bahamas.
WINNER: Connecticut. ‘Nuff said.
76 Classic
Nov. 24-27 ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU

WHOM TO WATCH: New Mexico and Saint Louis. Both teams have excellent head coaches, and Saint Louis has gotten off to a great start, having blitzed Washington, 77-64 last week at home. Rick Majerus has the Billikens playing tenacious defense, as Saint Louis has given up 37, 42, and 64 points in three games. The Billikens are giving up a miniscule 47.7 points per game, which is 4th-best in the country. New Mexico, meanwhile, has one of the best big men in the country in center Drew Gordon.

Villanova guard Maalik Wayns has had a torrid start to the season, averaging 19.3 points per game. (Getty Images)

PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT: Villanova G Maalik Wayns. The 6-2 junior point guard is averaging 19.3 points, 5 rebounds, and 4.7 assists thus far this season. Those are All-American candidate numbers.
UPSET TO STOMACH: Saint Louis over Villanova. This would be a signature win for the Billikens, who would likely be the favorite to win the tournament if they came through with a win over ‘Nova in the second round. The key will be whether or not Villanova can speed up the tempo and get Saint Louis out of its bruising, downright ugly style. (Sorry, Billikens fans).
WINNER: Villanova. The Wildcats are the most talented team in the field, and an early-season loss would hurt because the Big East, as always, is as rugged as a John Wayne movie.
Information from was used in this report.

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