A year ago, half the Maui Invitational field went on to earn top-three seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
This year, there may be just one team, if that, which ends up in the same position.
However, it doesn’t mean the tournament on the Big Island isn’t just as exciting. On top of that, it is already far more unpredictable.
Day one of the 2012 Maui Invitational saw two games grab headlines and highlights for different reasons. The first was a stunning buzzer-beater; the second was a win nobody could have foreseen going into the day.
In the opening game of the tournament, one that figured to be the best game of the day anyway, Butler and Marquette went well beyond expectations.
Marquette grabbed an early lead before Butler rallied to take a one-point lead at the half. The Golden Eagles took it back and held it until the game’s final minute.
That’s when Rotnei Clarke stole the show—and the game.
His off-balance three from the deep right wing gave Butler its first lead since the 17-minute mark. Luckily for him and the Bulldogs, it came with triple zeros on the clock.
After an approximate four-hour intermission—North Carolina’s 46-point thrashing of Mississippi State in game No. 2 can’t quite be considered a real game—a second shocker unfolded, in the only way possible to upstage the first.
Chaminade—a Division II school from Honolulu and tournament host since the inception of the Maui Invitational in 1984—knocked off Texas, 86-73. The Longhorns came into Maui just outside the Top 25, as the first team outside the newest AP Coaches Poll.
The win in itself is a huge upset.
The more unfathomable thing is that the Silver Swords—winners of just six games in the tournament’s 28 years prior to yesterday—basically dominated the game from start to finish.
With a result such as this, you’d have expected that Chaminade simply came out and couldn’t miss from long range. They did make 10 three pointers, but missed twice that number. Instead, the Silver Swords simply came out and took it right at Texas without fear.
They out-rebounded the Longhorns, 41-33, and earned 39 shots—making 34 of them—from the foul line.
The most dominant player on the court was DeAndre Haskins, who finished with 32 points. He made 14-of-15 from the foul line, ensuring Texas would have no chance whatsoever at a last-minute, sort-of-face-saving win.
For Chaminade, this is arguably its best win ever in the Maui Invitational and, thereby, probably the most surprising in the tournament’s 28-year history. Remember, the Swords’ shocking victory over No. 1 Virginia in 1982 pre-dated the inception of the prestigious event.
Now the question is: Can Chaminade possibly repeat itself tonight, in the semifinal game against Illinois?
The Illini come in to this game looking awfully good after a 30-point win in the nightcap game against USC. Also, they will certainly be on high-alert about falling into the same trap that Texas stumbled into and could not escape from.
The easy and probably correct answer to the question is no, but why not watch and see?
Chaminade—which has never won two games in the tournament—has a chance to make history in its 29th go-round as the host school.
In a field filled with many young and unproven teams, this would seem to be the year that it could happen.
Regardless, Chaminade has already done plenty to make up for the lack of top-ranked teams that normally litter this tournament. It has captured the eyes and fantasies of college basketball fans, reminding everyone, in November, why March Madness is so special.
Anything can happen in just one game.
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