Maui Invitational Preview
Today begins the Maui Invitational, which promises to be fun. We will have three Top-10 teams playing in the event as Duke, Auburn, and Gonzaga will all be there. Iowa State, Xavier, and Arizona are all currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament, they will be looking to make a statement in this event. Illinois and San Diego State are considered the two worst teams in the event but even they have the talent to make the NCAA Tournament. Everyone is expecting a Duke-Gonzaga final game, which would be fun, however, that may not be all said and done. Here I will give my Power Rankings for each team in the field and then I will predict each game in the Maui Invitational.
1.Duke: The Blue Devils have taken over the sport of College Basketball, having the best player in the sport thus far in Zion Williamson and arguably having the best team in the sport. While Zion gets all the headlines, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish have both shown out thus far this season, while Tre Jones has been rock solid running the show at the point guard position. This team might be the best team currently in the AP Poll but they will have to earn everything if they are going to take home the title in Maui.
2.Auburn: The Tigers are my number two team in this event in part due to the fact Gonzaga is without Killian Tillie, however, even then this team is still a Top-10 team. Jared Harper and Bryce Brown provide a great 1-2 punch in the backcourt, while frontcourt players like Chuma Okeke, Anfernee McLemore, and Austin Wiley all are very talented. Add in a couple of shooters like Samir Doughty, Horace Spencer, and Malik Dunbar and you have maybe the most complete roster in Maui. This team should win their first game, setting them up with a likely matchup against tournament favorite Duke, which should be all sorts of fun.
3.Gonzaga: Gonzaga will be without Killian Tillie, however, the rest of their roster is loaded. The headliner for Gonzaga is Rui Hachimura, who is averaging 22 points per game thus far this year. Zach Norvell Jr. is a great second option, as he can knock shots down at a high level, while Brandon Clarke is arguably the second most athletic player in this field. The Bulldogs do also have a solid backcourt with Josh Perkins, Corey Kispert, and Geno Crandall that should be key for them. They’ll have potentially the easiest road to the title game, as they won’t be forced to play any teams currently ranked.
4.Iowa State: The Cyclones come in with I think the clear fourth best roster, as they have lots of scoring options. Lindell Wiggington is the Cyclones best player, as he is a great scorer, however, he is expected to miss the event with an injury. Nick Weiler-Babb is Mr. 10, 5, and 5, as he consistently scores 10 points while dishing out assists at a high level. Transfers Marial Shayok and Michael Jacobsen have both been great coming out of the gate for the Cyclones, while the freshmen duo of Talen Horton-Tucker and Tyrese Haliburton have been pretty good. This team may not be a Top-10 team but they will certainly have a chance to knock one or two of them off even without their best player.
5.Arizona: The Wildcats are in rebuild mode, however, they still have a team that could make the tournament and those odds would only be improved with a couple of wins in the Maui Invitational. The two Brandon’s have arguably been the two best players thus far this year, Randolph has been a great scorer, while Williams has taken over as the teams point guard. Transfers Chase Jeter, Ryan Luther, and Justin Coleman have been solid contributors, while they still do have some solid players like Ira Lee, Emmanuel Akot, and Dylan Smith coming off the bench. This team may end up in the losers bracket but they will have a good chance to win a couple of games in Maui playing in the Losers Bracket.
6.Xavier: The Musketeers are in rebuild mode, as they lost the majority of their scoring, while also losing Chris Mack to Louisville. This team still does have solid players like Quentin Gooding, Naji Marshall, and Tyrique Jones, while they have solid transfers like Ryan Welage, Zach Hankins, and Kyle Castlin. This team will probably lose in game one, which will set them up for a potential run to fifth place in the event.
7.Illinois: Illinois has come into this season with low expectations but they have looked good thus far this season, as they’ve blown out Evansville and hung in with Georgetown without their best player. Trent Frazier is probably their best player, he is probably going to be back in this event after missing the Georgetown game with a concussion. Freshman Ayo Dosunmu has been a stud thus far, while players like Andres Feliz, Aaron Jordan, and Kipper Nichols are good players. This team will probably lose most if not all of their games, however, they will be a fun team to watch while losing.
8.San Diego State: San Diego State is a solid team that should probably finish second in the Mountain West, however, they will need to win games in this event to have a chance at an at-large bid. Devin Watson, Matt Mitchell, Jeremy Hemsley, and Jordan Schakel all are solid players, while Jalen McDaniels is a legitimate NBA prospect. They will have a chance to knock off Duke in game one but if not they will be stuck in the Losers Bracket.
My Maui Invitational Predictions:
Duke 100 San Diego State 76
Auburn 94 Xavier 73
Gonzaga 110 Illinois 88
Iowa State 76 Arizona 67
Auburn 93 Duke 88
Gonzaga 81 Iowa State 73
Xavier 75 San Diego State 71
Arizona 91 Illinois 87
7th Place Game: Illinois 87 San Diego State 82
5th Place Game: Arizona 75 Xavier 74
3rd Place Game: Duke 84 Iowa State 76
Championship Game: Auburn 87 Gonzaga 81