After an underwhelming opening week for college basketball featuring only one Top 25 matchup (Friday’s game between No. 2 Duke vs. No. 12 Arizona), in-season tournaments have started adding some spice to the schedule. These mutli-team events events should provide fireworks, star power and plenty of marquee matchups to satisfy fans until the new year.
While much of the sports world remains locked in on college football season , this portion of the schedule can help under the radar programs shine in the spotlight. In addition to the amount of marquee matchups in a short time period, teams on the bubble could pick up a handful of key resume wins that will boost their case come March.
The main event on the slate is the Maui Invitational. The tournament will be relocating to the island of O’ahu while its traditional home court – the Lahaina Civic Center – continues to serve those impacted by the devastating wildfires in Maui. The Maui Invitational features five teams ranked in the Top 25 and it should provide some early November madness.
Here is a ranking of the best early in-season tournaments in college basketball.
1. Maui Invitational
- Date: Nov. 20-22
- Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
- Matchups: No. 9 Tennessee vs. Syracuse, No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 11 Gonzaga, No. 1 Kansas vs. Chaminade, UCLA vs. No. 5 Marquette
- Breakdown: This is almost always the best in-season tournament because of the location and the star power in attendance. The best opening round matchup features reigning national player of the year and Purdue squaring up against Mark Few’s Gonzaga squad. The winner of that game faces Tennessee or Syracuse at the top of the bracket and if the tournament goes chalk, one of those teams could face No. 1 Kansas in the championship game.
2. Battle 4 Atlantis
- Date: Nov. 22-24
- Location: Paradise Island, Bahamas
- Matchups: No. 19 North Carolina vs. Northern Iowa, No. 22 Villanova vs. Texas Tech, Michigan vs. Memphis, No. 14 Arkansas vs. Stanford
- Breakdown: The best opening-round matchup is either Michigan vs. Memphis or Villanova vs. Texas Tech. The Tar Heels could face Villanova in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time since they played for the national title game in 2016. Memphis has one of the oldest starting lineups in college basketball and a semifinal matchup against Eric Musselman’s Arkansas team would be intriguing on the opposite side of the bracket.
3. Empire Classic
- Date: Nov. 19-20
- Location: New York
- Matchups: No. 6 UConn vs. Indiana, No. 18 Texas vs. Louisville
- Breakdown: How about a battle of blue bloods to start the Empire Classic? The reigning national champions will face an Indiana team that reached the second round before falling to Miami last season. On the other side, an experienced Texas team led by Tyrese Hunter and Max Abmas faces Louisville. The Cardinals have been on a free fall since the start of last season under coach Kenny Payne and this game is a chance to make a statement.
4. Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship
- Date: Nov. 17-19
- Location: Nassau, Bahamas
- Matchups: No. 13 Miami vs. Georgia, Kansas State vs. Providence
- Breakdown: Despite losing key players such as Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson to the NBA, Kansas State reloaded by landing North Texas guard Tylor Perry via the transfer portal. On the other side, Providence is in Year 1 of the Kim English era and they feature one of the best players in the Big East in forward/guard Bryce Hopkins. Georgia started the season with a loss to Oregon and faces a Miami team that’s fresh off the first Final Four appearance in program history. The Hurricanes should be favored in that game and will likely face Kansas State or Providence in the championship.
5. Continental Tire Main Event
- Date: Nov. 17-19
- Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
- Matchups: San Diego State vs. No. 23 Saint Mary’s, Xavier vs. Washington
- Breakdown: San Diego State vs. Saint Mary’s is one of the best mid-major matchups of the entire season. The Aztecs are coming off a national championship appearance and Saint Mary’s features one of the most underrated guards in the country in Aidan Mahaney. On the other side, UW’s Keion Brooks Jr. is one of the top returning scorers in the entire country and they will matchup with Sean Miller’s Xavier team in the opening round. Mahaney vs. Brooks in the championship game would be must-watch TV.
6. Acrisure Classic
- Date: Nov. 19-23
- Location: Campus sites/Palm Springs, Calif.
- Matchups: UT Arlington vs. No. 12 Arizona, Alcorn State vs. No. 4 Michigan State, Alcorn State vs. UT Arlington, No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Arizona
- Breakdown: This roundtable-type tournament starts at home sites before making its way to Palm Springs for the finale. The headliner is a matchup between No. 12 Arizona vs. No. 4 Michigan State on Thanksgiving in Southern California. The Wildcats have one of the most difficult nonconference slates in the country and the Spartans should provide a major test before Pac-12 play starts. The Spartans on the other hand are looking to make a statement after suffering an opening-night loss to James Madison at home.
7. ESPN Events Invitational
- Date: Nov. 23-26
- Location: Lake Buena Vista, Florida
- Matchups: Penn State vs. Texas A&M, No. 10 FAU vs. Butler, Iowa State vs. VCU, Boise State vs. Virginia Tech
- Breakdown: When it’s all said and done, this could very well end up being one of the best in-season tournaments on the list. It all starts with a rematch of a first round NCAA Tournament game with Penn State squaring off with Texas A&M. Things have drastically changed with the Nittany Lions’ program since the 17-point win over the Aggies this spring, including Mike Rhoades replacing Micah Shrewsberry, who departed for the vacant job at Notre Dame. The field also features three other teams that reached the NCAA Tournament: FAU, Iowa State and Boise State.
8. Emerald Coast Classic
- Date: Nov. 24-25
- Location: Niceville, Florida
- Matchups: No. 24 Alabama vs. Ohio State, Oregon vs. Santa Clara
- Breakdown: After earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and seeing multiple key players depart the program, Alabama reloaded by landing one of top available transfer portal players in NDSU’s Grant Nelson. The Crimson Tide have a date with Ohio State and Oregon or Santa Clara awaits the winner of the matchup. Alabama should be the heavy favorite to capture the title here if they want to live up to its preseason billing.