Preseason College Basketball Tournaments We Can't Wait to See in 2014-15

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2014

Preseason College Basketball Tournaments We Can't Wait to See in 2014-15

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    Preseason tournaments such as the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas bring out strong fields and produce great non-conference matchups.
    Preseason tournaments such as the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas bring out strong fields and produce great non-conference matchups.Tim Aylen

    The 2014-15 college basketball season is still a good seven months away, and it will be quite some time before final schedules are released.

    But we do know which teams are going to be participating in noteworthy early-season tournaments and made-for-TV competitions, events that feature anywhere from four to 16 schools and give us some of the best nonconference matchups each and every year.

    Every Division I team is allowed to play in one of these events, which guarantees a team three or four games and often includes some preliminary contests at home before meeting in a neutral site.

    The 2013-14 version of these events featured some great title games, such as Arizona beating Duke for the NIT Season Tip-Off title in New York City and Villanova downing Iowa (after upsetting Kansas earlier in the tourney) to take the Battle 4 Atlantis crown in the Bahamas.

    The full fields aren't available for all these tournaments, nor are the initial pairings. For now, though, we can look at who's involved and speculate on (or wish for) some potential matchups.

Showcase Doubleheaders

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    In addition to the many tournaments that fill the early schedule, there are also some big-time doubleheaders that will garner plenty of attention.

    Kicking things off is the Champions Classic, which debuted in 2011 and is set to run through at least 2016 with the same four teams involved each year: Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky. This year's event will be in Indianapolis on Nov. 18 and will pit Duke against MSU and Kansas against Kentucky.

    The Jimmy V Classic, held Dec. 9 in New York City, has Indiana facing Louisville and Maryland against Villanova. This will be Villanova's third appearance in the doubleheader (losing in 2008 and 2011), while Indiana and Louisville will renew an old rivalry that has gone dormant since they last met in 2003.

    The Crossroads Classic, set for Dec. 20 in Indianapolis, brings together the Hoosier State's four most noteworthy programs in an annual round-robin format. This year's lineup has Butler against Indiana and Notre Dame against Purdue. 

2K Sports Classic

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Championship rounds Nov. 20-21

    Where: Championship rounds at Madison Square Garden, New York City

    Last year's final: Connecticut beat Indiana 59-58

     

    The 2K Sports Classic will feature eight to 12 teams, but the main attractions are California, Iowa, Syracuse and Texas. Those four are already guaranteed to advance to the championship round regardless of what happens in earlier action.

    The remaining teams will be made up of non-power-conference foes, who will each play a pair of the big four on the road as warm-ups.

    The tournament will serve as the first big games for newly hired Cal coach Cuonzo Martin, who's name and bio is already listed on the event's website. But it will be a hoped-for final between Syracuse and Texas that will grab the most attention.

     

Coaches vs. Cancer Classic

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    When: Championship rounds Nov. 21-22

    Where: Championship rounds at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y

    Last year's final: Michigan State beat Oklahoma 87-76

     

    Like the 2K Sports Classic, this eight- to 12-team event has four locked-in semifinalists in Duke, Stanford, Temple and UNLV. The remaining teams have yet to be determined, but will mostly come from lower-level conferences.

    Duke will have just faced Michigan State a few days earlier in the Champions Classic, but the Blue Devils have made a history of playing in more than one of these neutral-site competitions each year. The semifinal pairings haven't been announced, but the most enticing matchup for the title would be Duke and its No. 1 recruiting class against UNLV's young prospects, including 5-star guard Rashad Vaughn.

Puerto Rico Tip-Off

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Nov. 20-23

    Where: Coliseo Roberto Clemente, San Juan, Puerto Rico

    Last year's final: Charlotte beat Michigan 63-61

     

    Defending NCAA champion Connecticut highlights the field of this eight-team tournament, which follows the traditional format of having winners advance through the bracket toward a true championship. Every team is guaranteed three games over four days, with a chance to check out some sights in between.

    Also in the field is the Cinderella of the 2014 NCAA tourney, Dayton, as well as Mountain West tourney champ New Mexico, Boston College, Texas A&M and West Virginia.

    Old Big East mates BC and UConn met in the 2K Sports Classic last year, with Connecticut winning 72-70. That could be a first-round matchup in this event, with the best-case scenario for a final featuring UConn and West Virginia.

CBE Hall of Fame Classic

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    Justin Hayworth

    When: Championship rounds Nov. 24-25

    Where: Championship rounds at Sprint Center, Kansas City

    Last year's final: Wichita State beat BYU 75-62

     

    Another eight- to 12-team event that starts at campus sites and moves to a neutral location for the later rounds, the CBE Hall of Fame Classic will automatically send Alabama, Arizona State, Iowa State and Maryland to Kansas City.

    It's very possible one of them might come in with a loss in the tourney, though, as Georgia State could have Louisville transfer Kevin Ware eligible if his hardship appeal is approved. The Panthers also feature Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow.

    The best title-game pairing would be Iowa State against Maryland, with the Cyclones showing off their latest transfer in ex-UNLV guard Bryce Dejean-Jones matching up with the Terrapins and its No. 10 recruiting class

Legends Classic

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    When: Championship rounds Nov. 24-25

    Where: Championship rounds at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y

    Last year's final: Pittsburgh beat Stanford 88-67

     

    As soon as the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic is packed up at Barclays, in comes the final rounds of another event in the Legends Classic. This one will have only eight teams, but again features four clubs that are locked into the finals.

    Michigan, Oregon, VCU and Villanova make up one of the best lineups of any preseason event, with any combination of teams in the final sure to give us an exciting clash. For the purposes of our eyesight, however, we might want to avoid any matchup between Michigan and Oregon's highlighter-level uniforms, though it would be a dandy of a game. 

Maui Invitational

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 24-26

    Where: Lahaina Civic Center, Maui, Hawaii

    Last year's final: Syracuse beat Baylor 74-67

     

    The Maui Invitational traditionally has one of the best fields of any preseason tournament, with the added flavor of including Division II Chaminade as the tournament host. Chaminade has pulled a few upsets in the past, but for the most part the tournament belongs to the big boys.

    For 2014 that includes Arizona, BYU, Kansas State, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Purdue and San Diego State, all of whom will play three games in a traditional eight-team tourney. Four more schools will be part of the Maui on the Mainland portion, with each providing the main entrants an extra game at home before heading to Hawaii.

    Arizona and San Diego State met twice last season, with the Wildcats winning in San Diego and then again in the Sweet 16 in Anaheim. How about a third meeting in just over a year and fourth in two years? These teams also played for the Diamond Head Classic title in Honolulu in December 2012, with Arizona taking that one as well.

NIT Season Tip-Off

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    Frank Franklin II

    When: Championship rounds Nov. 26 and 28

    Where: Championship rounds at Madison Square Garden, New York City

    Last year's final: Arizona beat Duke 72-66

     

    Long before preseason tournaments became as prevalent as college football bowl games, the tournament now known as the NIT Season Tip-Off served as the unofficial start of his basketball season. And it remains one of the best, as well as the only one that features a 16-team field.

    The first two rounds are played at home sites, with Georgia, Gonzaga, Minnesota and St. John's serving as the hosts of separate four-team pods. A team has to win twice to advance to Madison Square Garden; there's no automatic berths to the championship round like in other events.

    Rutgers was a host last season, but it was Drexel that made it through to the semifinals.

    Most of the visiting teams haven't been announced, but assuming the hosts all advance we'd love to see Minnesota get a chance to win two straight NIT tourneys at MSG after downing SMU to win the postseason NIT earlier this month. A fitting opponent would be St. John's, which considers the Garden its second home.

Battle 4 Atlantis

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    Mark Humphrey

    When: Nov. 26-28

    Where: Atlantis Resort Imperial Arena, Nassau, Bahamas

    Last year's final: Villanova beat Iowa 88-83 in overtime

     

    One of the newest high-profile preseason events has also quickly become one of the most in demand, as the Battle 4 Atlantis has managed to lure in a seemingly stronger field every year to play in an arena that's essentially a converted ballroom. It makes for a very different atmosphere, but one that keeps drawing solid schools.

    The 2014 lineup includes two teams from the 2014 Final Four in Florida and Wisconsin, not to mention Georgetown, North Carolina, Oklahoma and UCLA. Butler and UAB make up the rest of this star-studded field, which will play three straight days to crown a champ.

    A Florida-Wisconsin matchup would be great to see, but so would many other combinations. Whoever makes the final will no doubt provide a fantastic finish.

Old Spice Classic

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    When: Nov. 27-30

    Where: HP Field House, Orlando

    Last year's final: Memphis beat Oklahoma State 73-68

     

    There are a lot of reasons to spend the holidays at Disney World, and for eight teams each year that includes playing basketball. Since 2006 this event has been held in an arena at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex within Disney World, providing fans and participants with a stay-and-play atmosphere.

    The field usually includes at least a few star teams, and in 2014 that describes Kansas, Michigan State and Tennessee. Georgia Tech, Marquette, Rhode Island, Rider and Santa Clara round out the field, which is held over three days with a true championship game.

    A Kansas-Michigan State final would be a dream scenario, but odds are the bracket will be set up to make that happen.

Diamond Head Classic

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    When: Dec. 22-25

    Where: Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu

    Last year's final: Iowa State beat Boise State 70-66

     

    The Diamond Head Classic rounds out the preseason tournament slate, though to consider it "preseason" is misleading since many conferences will have started league play by this point. For those that make the trip to Hawaii for Christmas (tough life, I know), the tourney can provide one last getaway before the rigors of conference action, and can also serve as a springboard.

    Arizona won this tournament two years ago and Iowa State did last year. This year's field includes tourney host Hawaii as well as Colorado, George Washington, Nebraska and Wichita State as the main contenders. DePaul, Loyola Marymount and Ohio round out the field.

    Wichita State may not be unbeaten again when it gets to Honolulu, but if it is look for the Shockers to reach the final, hopefully against Colorado or Nebraska.

Others to Watch

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Some of the other tournaments worth keeping an eye on:

    • Charleston Classic (Nov. 20-23, Charleston, S.C.): The eight-team event includes Miami (Fla.), Penn State, South Carolina and USC.
    • Hall of Fame Tip-Off (Nov. 22-23): One bracket includes Florida State, Massachusetts, Notre Dame and Providence, while Manhattan highlights the rest of the field.
    • Paradise Jame (Nov. 21-24, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands): Clemson, LSU and Seton Hall highlight the eight-team field.
    • Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 26-29, Anchorage): Colorado State, Mercer, UCSB and Washington State are included in this eight-team tourney hosted by Division II Alaska Anchorage.
    • Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 27-28, Las Vegas): After preliminary rounds at campus sites, semifinal and championship games will involve Baylor, Illinois, Indiana State and Memphis.
    • Emerald Coast Classic (Nov. 28-29, Niceville, Fla.): Cincinnati, Creighton, Middle Tennessee and Mississippi are the featured teams in this tourney that also includes on-campus games.
    • Barclays Center Classic (Nov. 28-29, Brooklyn, N.Y.): After on-campus games, this event moves to a neutral site, with La Salle, Rutgers, Vanderbilt and Virginia slated for the championship round.
    • The Wooden Legacy (Nov. 27-28, Long Beach, Calif.; Nov. 30, Anaheim): Long Beach State, Princeton, UTEP, Washington and Xavier are among the entrants in this eight-team event.

     

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.