TOP 25 THIS WEEK: Marquee matchups await holiday tournaments
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self still remembers the time he met Al McGuire, the colorful Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster who led Marquette to a national championship more than four decades ago.
Self was an assistant at Oklahoma State. McGuire had moved from the sideline to the microphone. They were together in the locker room before a game when McGuire came out and firmly set his hands on Self’s shoulders, and the impressionable young coach waited for some words of wisdom.
“OK, we got it,” Self recalled hearing from behind McGuire, where a camera crew was positioned to get some B-roll film for the broadcast. McGuire turned on his heel and walked away.
“He never said a word,” Self said with a chuckle.
Self recalled the story this week ahead of the second-ranked Jayhawks’ game against Marquette in the NIT Season Tip-Off on Wednesday in New York. Fifth-ranked Tennessee meets Louisville in the other tournament semifinal, and the winners will meet for the championship on Friday night.
“Playing Marquette and either Louisville or Tennessee in a three-day window will tell us a lot,” Self said. “I think this is a really good field, as good as any tournament in the country.”
There are some pretty good fields in other tournaments, though.
Top-ranked Duke, second-ranked Gonzaga and No. 8 Auburn got started in the Maui Invitational on Monday. No. 15 Mississippi State is headed to Las Vegas for the MGM Resorts Main Event, No. 14 Florida State and No. 19 LSU highlight the AdvoCare Invitational, and No. 4 Virginia and No. 25 Wisconsin are the marquee teams at the Battle 4 Atlantis starting Wednesday.
“I think this is a big thing in all our programs,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the Maui Invitational. “It’s one tournament that really moves the needle with your own players, obviously with your fans — at least, ours are always asking what year are we going back to Maui. Even in recruiting, if you mention Maui in recruiting, the kids are very excited about getting over here.”
Still, the Las Vegas Invitational may have the toughest quartet of teams of any tournament in the country. Seventh-ranked North Carolina faces Texas in the opening semifinal Thursday night while No. 11 Michigan State faces No. 17 UCLA in the other.
“I feel like we are a whole different team from our game against Kansas. That was our first time being thrown out into the fire,” Spartans guard Cassius Winston said. “Now we know our roles and we are looking forward to these upcoming games because it’s a whole different caliber.”
STARTING THE WEEK
No. 12 Kansas State beat Missouri 82-67 to win the Paradise Jam on Monday night. No. 6 Nevada, No. 7 North Carolina and No. 17 UCLA won campus games in the Las Vegas Invitational. Top-ranked Duke rolled in Maui, where No. 8 Auburn needed overtime to beat Xavier. No. 16 Florida State beat Canisius in a campus game of the AdvoCare Invitational and No. 16 Clemson squeaked by Akron in the Cayman Islands.
BRUTAL BIG TEN
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo jokingly blamed former athletic director Mark Hollis for leaving him with a brutal nonconference schedule. But things won’t get much easier once league play begins. The Spartans are joined in the Top 25 by ninth-ranked Michigan, No. 20 Iowa, No. 23 Ohio State, No. 24 Purdue and No. 25 Wisconsin, while Nebraska and Indiana are the next two schools receiving votes.
The Wolverines have already won the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off, the Hawkeyes won the 2K Classic, the Badgers are playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis and Ohio State is hosting its own Buckeye Classic.
BEAT-UP BIG EAST
Reigning national champion Villanova lost twice to fall out of the Top 25. Marquette also fell out after getting routed by Indiana. Xavier got shellacked by Wisconsin, Creighton lost to Ohio State and Seton Hall was stomped by Nebraska in an awful week for the Big East.
Perhaps the league can turn things around in holiday tournaments.
Xavier lost to Auburn in the opening round in Maui on Monday. Creighton is playing in the Cayman Islands. Marquette has the Jayhawks up next while Butler is in the Battle 4 Atlantis.