Though not overly hyped like many of its fellow early-season college basketball tournaments, the 2013 Gulf Coast Showcase is sprinkled with formidable schools that have experience on the big stage.
In the tournament's inaugural year, it aimed to give mid-majors a shot at glory and provide an even playing field with a heap of teams able to add a championship to their resume. But a few schools certainly stick out in the field.
Here are the teams most likely to cut down the nets in Germain Arena over Thanksgiving weekend.
All tournament information courtesy of the Gulf Coast Showcase official website.
The Toreros have secured two NCAA tournament bids in the last decade, and while they may not reach that level this season, they boast one of the most star-studded rosters in the field.
San Diego is led by junior guard Johnny Dee, who is averaging 17 points per contest through the Toreros' first four games—all wins. Down low, 6'11" monster Dennis Kramer mans the post and leads the team in rebounding with seven per game.
In the hoops-savvy West Coast Conference, San Diego was picked to finish fifth behind Gonzaga, BYU, Saint Mary's and San Francisco. That's not bad company compared to its competition in the Gulf Coast Showcase.
The Toreros will start off their tourney action Monday, Nov. 25 at 2:30 p.m. ET against University of Illinois-Chicago.
The Bonnies are most known in college hoops circles for their advancement to the 2012 NCAA tournament, where they nearly upset No. 2 seed Florida State before posting a heartbreaking 66-63 loss.
Head coach Mark Schmidt doesn't boast the same NBA prospects that he did in that campaign, but his system is firmly in place for more success in this early-season tournament.
Picked to finish No. 12 in the 13-team Atlantic 10, don't expect another Big Dance bid from the Bonnies this season. However, they boast the pedigree and talent to compete for the championship in this tourney.
After starting the season 3-1, senior guard Matthew Wright looks poised to lead the team in scoring with more than 15 per contest thus far. The Bonnies are balanced, too, boasting six players with more than nine points per game.
St. Bonaventure kicks off its appearance in the inaugural tournament Monday night with an 8:30 p.m. ET affair against Southern Illinois.
With fortune comes misfortune in the Bulldogs' case this season, as the first year as members of Conference USA may end up being a very tough one with few wins. However, they'll be able to get off to a strong start against schools they match up well against at the Gulf Coast Showcase.
Louisiana Tech wasn't messing around with its early-season schedule, as it booked a road trip to Saint Mary's to open the season. A 13-point loss to a very talented Gaels squad is respectable to start the year.
The Bulldogs made that loss a distant memory with a 106-59 drubbing of Centenary behind 20 points and 10 assists off the bench from Cordarius Johnson.
If Johnson can continue emerging in a bench role and senior forward Chris Anderson keeps putting up anywhere near 16.5 points per game, count on the Bulldogs to be one of the favorites in southwest Florida.
Louisiana Tech will face UNC-Greensboro in the opening game of the tournament, Monday at noon ET.
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