4 Unranked CBB Teams That Could Storm into the Top 25 During Holiday Tournaments
Holiday tournaments can be a launching pad for special seasons for college basketball teams.
With the opportunity to play programs that aren't on their regular schedule, up-and-coming or bounce-back programs can insert themselves into the national scene by knocking off a ranked team or two in the span of just a few days.
The intense competition at three major November tourneys (Battle4Atlantis, the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and the Maui Invitational) provide the break some teams need to jump up into the early polls.
Last year, Harvard won the Battle4Atlantis 2011 and springboarded into the national rankings.
Here are four unranked (AP) CBB teams that have a great chance to make their move into the Top 25 by winning in one of these exotic locations.
Texas Longhorns (Maui Invitational)
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The 2012-13 'Horns will be an extremely young and enormously talented team.
For all practical purposes, Rick Barnes' entire roster is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
Texas PG Myck Kabongo's eligibility status will have a huge impact on how Texas does both early and throughout the upcoming season.
The upper part of the Maui bracket is brutal, with Butler facing Marquette and North Carolina squaring off against Mississippi State.
Assuming that Roy's boys are going to take care of business on the beach, Texas will meet the Tar Heels on Nov. 21.
If Texas takes the title, it will have earned its spot in the next Top 25.
Minnesots Golden Gophers (Battle4Atlantis 2012)
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Tubby Smith is taking his team to the Bahamas...to play in this year's loaded Battle4Atlantis.
The Golden Gophers are anxious to show that last year's up-and-down season was a fluke.
In 2011-12, Injuries decimated Minnesota's frontline, including its leading scorer and rebounder, Trevor Mbakwe (pictured; 14.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg).
And yet, UM made it to the NIT finals before losing to Stanford.
Smith will put a talented club on the floor that will feature Mbakwe, 6'7" senior Rodney Williams and sophomore PG Andre Williams. Four of its five starters have returned.
The Golden Gophers will need to bring their "A" game to the Atlantis.
Minnesota will jump right into it with an opening round game against Duke (Nov. 22). If Tubby's troupe can pull off a first-game upset, it will face the winner of the Memphis vs. VCU showdown.
The top half of the tourney bracket doesn't get any easier with Louisville playing Northern Iowa and Missouri matching up against Stanford.
I'm guessing Rick Pitino's platoon will slug its way through its first two games.
If, and that's a big IF, Minnesota makes it through this gauntlet, it will definitely march into the Top 25.
Tennessee Vols (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
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Cuonzo Martin did a great job in his first year filling Bruce Pearl's shoes at Tennessee.
After tussling through a rocky first several games, the Vols turned it on to finish 2011-12 with a respectable 10-6 SEC record (19-15 overall).
UT returns four of five starters from last year and has good depth behind a physical starting five.
PG Trae Golden is the key to Tennessee's success this season.
Golden (6-1, 209 lbs; 13.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.5 apg,) led the Vols in scoring and assists last year and will make sure that Jarnell Stokes and Jerrone Maymon get plenty of looks down low.
Tennessee opens the Puerto Rico Tip-Off against a not-to-be-taken-lightly UNC Asheville squad.
If the Vols dispatch of the Bulldogs (as they should), they will face the winner of the Akron (22-12 in '11-12) vs. Oklahoma State game.
If Tennessee comes out on top in both of those contests, it will most likely be matched up against NC State.
If Martin can get his Vols to play the lock-down defense that they showed they could play at times last year, anything is possible, and they could return to Knoxville as a ranked team.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams (Battle4Atlantis 2012)
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Shaka in the Bahamas? No, this is not a vacation. It's all business, baby!
And that business begins on the defensive end of the court.
Last year, VCU (29-7) led the nation in steals (381), turnover margin (+6.5) and turnovers forced (17.9 per game).
The Rams return four of their five starters, 80 percent of their scoring and 85 percent of their rebounding from 2011-12.
Winning isn't a foreign concept for VCU. It is one of four programs in the country to post at least 24 wins each of the last six seasons (Kansas, Memphis and BYU are the others).
So, when the Rams hit the court against Memphis in their opening game in The Battle4Atlantis, they will not back down or hesitate one bit.
If they dispose of the Tigers, they will play the winner of the Duke vs. Minnesota game.
And if they roll all the way to the tournament championship, they will face either Louisville, Northern Iowa, Missouri or Stanford.
If the Rams have success in this hoops' mine field, they deserve to jump into the Top 25.