Indiana head coach Archie Miller said it loud and clear after his team’s opening win against Tennessee Tech, they are in the premiere event of college basketball.
The 2020 Maui Invitational, moved to Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville, N.C. due to the coronavirus pandemic, features eight teams who are all trying to make the most out of a strange 2020-21 college basketball season. The competition includes blue bloods, upstart mid-majors, and some potential NBA Draft prospects. However, none of the eight squads ranked in the top-15 of the preseason AP poll. Anyone can raise the trophy on Wednesday, so let’s take a look at the field.
AP Poll: Received votes. KenPom: 24th. Fun fact: IU’s last appearance in the AP Poll came 1/14/2019
Miller brought in a recruiting class loaded with talent, headlined by 5-star guard Khristian Lander and wing slasher Trey Galloway. In addition to the newcomers, Miller returns many key players from last season’s 20-win team, including Rob Phinisee, Al Durham, Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis. Make no mistake about it, the Indiana Hoosiers revolve around the preseason All-American Jackson-Davis. He returns for his sophomore season after averaging 13.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game.
In Indiana’s first game of the season against Tennessee Tech, the “Cream and Crimson” walked away with an 89-59 victory behind Jackson-Davis’s 26 points and 11 rebounds. Rob Phinisee poured in 12 points and freshman Trey Galloway pitched in 13 off of the bench.
AP Poll: Received votes. KenPom: 46th. Fun fact: the school’s first mascot was a Dalmatian named “Friar of What-Ho“, purchased in 1935
Providence looks to capture its first Maui Invitational title since being crowned the first-ever champions back in 1984. Ed Cooley’s Friars spent much of their 2019 season finding their identity and ended up winning eight of their final 10 games. The emergence of David Duke helped as he averaged 12.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his sophomore season. On Friday, Cooley called Duke “one of the best two-way players in the country”.
Providence looked dominant in its. home opener as they defeated Fairfield, 97-56. They held their opposition to just 13.3% from long distance and just 32% from the field. Center Nate Watson led the way for Providence with 23 points and 10 rebounds. The Friars also saw four other players scoring in double figures. Shooting nearly 45% from three will make Providence dangerous in the invitational and a team that nobody can overlook.
The Hoosiers take on Providence at 2:30 PM EST on Monday. For the Friars, forward Jimmy Nichols, Jr. is likely available for this contest after missing the opener. IU has not updated center Joey Brunk‘s status for the contest.
Indiana all-time record vs. Providence: 1-0
AP Poll: #19. KenPom: 8th. Fun fact: Indiana football is No. 10 in the country. Texas football is unranked.
One potential IU opponent on Tuesday is No. 19 Texas, who comes into the season with Big 12 title aspirations. Last year, the Longhorns won five of their last six games to finish 19-12 and reach the .500 mark in conference play. Had there been an NCAA Tournament, the Longhorns would have likely made the field of 68. Overall, Texas has won between 19 and 21 games in five of the last six years.
Shaka Smart still runs the show in Austin, and his recruiting skills have really picked up the last couple seasons. Per 247Sports, Texas finished with a top-20 class nationally in 2019, and in the class of 2020, Smart landed center Greg Brown, who was the ninth-ranked player in the country. Brown had 11 points and 10 rebounds in Texas’ season opening 36-point win over UT Rio Grande Valley.
Junior guard Andrew Jones, who defeated leukemia and then averaged 11.5 PPG for the Longhorns last season, did not play in the opener, but expect him to suit up for Texas’ opener vs. Davidson Monday.
Indiana all-time record vs. Texas: 1-1
AP Poll: unranked, not receiving votes. KenPom: 82nd. Fun fact: Davidson is located in North Carolina.
Bob McKillop, who has coached at Davison since the *first* Bush administration, looks to secure his first Maui Invitational championship. The Wildcats, who play some of the slowest tempo basketball in the country, will have to depend on their shooting ability, as they always have, if they want to upset Texas on Monday and make a run. The winner of the IU and Providence game plays the winner of the Texas and Davidson matchup on Tuesday. The losers of the two games square off as well.
Davidson opened up their season with an 82-73 victory over High Point. Known nationally for their ability to shoot, the Wildcats shot 52.5% from the field and nearly 40% from three. Four of the starting five players scored in double figures, with Hyunjung Lee and Kellan Grady scoring 20 or more. Grady is one of just 13 players in the country who averaged at least 17 points per game in each of the last three years.
Indiana all-time record vs. Davidson: 1-0
NORTH CAROLINA (1-0)
AP Poll: #16. KenPom: 22nd. Fun fact: UNC went 14-19 last year, their worst record since 2002
North Carolina, Stanford, UNLV and Alabama make up the opposite side of the bracket from Indiana. As Roy Williams’ 48th season as head coach begins, the Tar Heels look to have a bounce-back kind of season after a disappointing 2019 campaign. While losing guard Cole Anthony to the draft is a major loss, the Tar Heels did return big man Armondo Bacot. In his freshman season, Bacot averaged a near double-double with 9.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
In North Carolina’s season opener, there were moments in which the Tar Heels did not dominate. Their opponent, College of Charleston, a 17.5-point underdog, held a second half lead in Chapel Hill. Nevertheless, UNC walked away with a 79-60 victory. 6-foot-4-inch freshman guard Caleb Love, who had Indiana in his list of final six schools, is considered by many to be a top-10 2021 NBA Draft pick.
Indiana all-time record vs. UNC: 9-6
AP Poll: Unranked, not receiving votes. KenPom: 136th. Fun fact: Guy Fieri graduated from UNLV in 1990
In his second season as head coach, T.J. Otzelberger looks to improve off a 17-15 record last season. With the return of junior guard Bryce Hamilton, the Rebels will look to make a massive push in this year’s tournament. UNLV is a younger team and will have to look towards their few upperclassmen in the tournament.
UNLV will enter the tournament on Monday as the only team with a losing record, as they fell in their season opener to Montana State, 91-78. Hamilton poured in 28 points in the loss, a positive sign for the future as he is looking to have a breakout season after averaging 16 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game last season. The Rebels will look to use Maui as a bounce back from their performance in their season opener. UNLV has by far the lowest KenPom rating in the field, ranking 136th as of Sunday night. No other team is lower than 82nd.
Indiana all-time record vs. UNLV: 1-1 (L 69-72 at 2015 Maui Invitational)
AP Poll: Received votes. KenPom: 35th. Fun fact: Stanford is the alma mater of 30 current billionaires
The Stanford Cardinal have some returning talent, such as senior forward Oscar da Silva (15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game), but coach Jerod Haase brings in a top-20 recruiting class, headlined by electrifying forward Ziaire Williams. Williams, a 5-star recruit and the highest rated recruit in the history of Stanford’s program, is also projected to be a top-10 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Both Silva and Williams were named to the 50-man preseason Naismith Trophy watch list.
Maui will be the first time that fans of the Cardinal will see their team, as the opener was canceled due to concerns with COVID-19. Stanford enters the tournament as the only team that has not played; it will be interesting to see how they come out in their first game against Alabama on Monday night.
Indiana all-time record vs. Stanford: 4-0
AP Poll: Received votes. KenPom: 48th. Fun fact: Their mascot is an elephant named “Big Al”
Head coach Nate Oats is coming into his second season at Alabama and has already made an impressive recruiting move, bringing in sophomore transfer Jahvonn Quinerly. The New Jersey native is a former McDonald’s All-American and spent his first season at Villanova. After averaging only 9.1 minutes per game, Quinerly sought change. Maui will be the first time the fans of the Crimson Tide are able to see their team take on stronger competition.
In Alabama’s season opener, the team struggled to find consistency from behind the arc as they shot 22.6% from three. The defense picked up for the poor shooting performance from deep, holding Jacksonville St. to just 27% from the field. Four of the five starters scored in double figures, something that needs to happen in order to be successful in the tough SEC. The Crimson Tide play at the fourth fastest pace in college basketball, so buckle up when tuning in to watch them.
Indiana all-time record vs. Alabama: 3-0
Featured Image: Brian Spurlocki