Game Preview: Maui Invitational


 

For only making the trip every four years, Maui must sure feel like home for UNC. In its last three trips to the land of Spam for this tournament, the Tar Heels have captured three Invitational championships (2000, 2004, 2008). During this nine game winning streak, the Heels have also gone onto the Final Four in each season after winning it all in Maui and brought home a NCAA Championship banner in the last two seasons. This year’s field is not quite as loaded in terms of ranked teams, but still has a load of talent on the court with Texas, Marquette, Butler, USC, Illinois and Mississippi State all in attendance. And we can’t forget the mighty host team Chaminade.

While we can’t predict the future and outcomes of the games ahead for the Heels (surprising, right?) we’re going to focus on the expected opponents for each round. We also assume UNC will be making it to the title game and not in the consolation bracket, so that is also the path we’re outlining. Ahhhh here it goes…

First Round: Mississippi State

As the only guaranteed opponent on the Maui docket, the Bulldogs come into the Monday night game with a 1-1 record, beating the same Florida Atlantic team UNC beat by a margin of 20 (the Heels won by 24) after losing its opener to Troy. Really, Troy?

  • Trivia: You may remember the Heels playing Mississippi State in Starkville during the 2010 NIT, or maybe you choose to forget. That UNC team won on a last second lay-up to advance. Who was that player to push the Heels into the next round? The answer below…
  • Mississippi State has been known in the NCAABB world most recently for the antics of Renardo Sidney – the oft-suspended, occasional teammate fighter who was supposedly talented but between never being on the floor or in shape we can’t claim to know for sure. Sidney is now gone after declaring for and going undrafted in the 2012 NBA draft.
  • The Bulldogs are a young team with four players averaging 10 or more points. Sophomore forward Roquez Johnson leads the team with 17 ppg. Lone contributing senior Wendell Lewis doesn’t do much with his 6’9″ frame but his freshman replacement Gavin Ware does, averaging 10 points and 6 rebounds.
  • Four players on MSU are also either not playing due to injuries or suspension. We won’t name them because you probably won’t know ’em anyways.
  • Answer to our trivia question: LARRY DREW II! Boo.

This should be a good game for UNC to ease into the tournament. We’re hoping the shooting picks up and James Michael McAdoo takesadvantage of an overmatched frontcourt.

Prediction: UNC 82, MSU 65

Second Round: Marquette or Butler (Most likely Marquette)

We’re hinging our bets on both UNC and Marquette winning their first round games leading to this Tuesday showdown. If nothing else this will be a sharp looking game with a load of Columbia blue. Lots of Jordans on the floor too as Marquette also has the coveted Jordan Brand sponsorship because of alum and former Jordan Brand athlete Dwyane Wade. Now that he’s moved to Chinese company Li-Ning, think Marquette ever makes the jump? His shoes are pretty dope. I mean, they’re not Jordans but what are? We’re getting off topic.

  • The Golden Eagle are not ranked, but they receive some votes in the polls. Coach Buzz Williams always trots out a good bunch of players so expect a dog fight. Or would this be more of a cock fight with the MSU Bulldogs being the dog fight? Again with the getting off topic…
  • It would have been nice to see the cancelled matchup between Marquette and Ohio State. If you missed that, the aircraft carrier game was called off due to condensation on the court. Not that those Carrier Classics are the best indicator of a team but wins over Southeast Louisiana and Colgate don’t tell you much. MU is 2-0.
  • Junior Davante Gardner has been coming off the bench and leads the team in scoring (16 ppg). The forward has a partner in the low blocks with Chris Otule, a 6’11” senior putting up 10.5 points and 2.5 rebounds. Wait, he’s almost 7′ and doesn’t even grab 3 rebounds a game? Are we missing something here?
  • Another forward, 6’7″ Jamil Wilson, also scores over 10 a game. Four other Marquette players average 6 ppg or more as part of a unit scoring 84 a contest.

The height and scoring of the Golden Eagles could give the Heels a true test. We said in Episode 3 of the podcast that Brice Johnson hadn’t had a bad game. This could be a huge tell in how Johnson, Joell James and Desmond Hubert handle a formidable frontcourt.

Prediction: UNC 76, Marquette 70

Finals (because we will should be there): Texas, USC, Illinois or Chaminade (we’re talking ’bout Texas)

The other side of the bracket isn’t as scary on paper. We assume this is anti-UNC bias. Texas is hovering near the bottom of the polls – still unranked but the first man out in the AP – and has given UNC fits in the recent past. Do we need to recall two years ago in Greensboro? We’re not too worried about USC (the real one, not South Carolina) or Illinois, although Illinois does have a new coach in Jim Groce, the same man who took Ohio University to a Sweet Sixteen last season before falling to, you know the answer, UNC.

  • Rick Barnes has his handfull this year with a bunch of rugrats. If you think UNC is young, check out Texas. The Longhorns started three freshmen and two sophomores, never had less than two freshmen on the floor and didn’t play one upperclassman in its opening game win over Fresno State.
  • Texas’ defacto leader, sophomore guard Sheldon McClellan, is just the type of player to give UNC fits. At 6’4″ he’s not lighting it up from behind the arc (3-8) but he is physical and getting to the charity stripe. McClellan has attempted four more FTs than FGs (24-20) and hit 22. Damn son.
  • There’s a steep drop off after McClellan on the offensive end. Texas as a team is scoring 62 points per game with McClellan accounting for 22.5 of those. Damn son.Offensively there’s no one else to talk about. Defensively the Longhorns have held opponents on average to under 50 points. That kind of defense could disrupt the freshmen.
  • If you’re wondering what happened to last year’s team to leave this one so underclassmen heavy and why you may not remember anybody on this year’s squad, besides NBA deflects, the other big name, preseason All-Big 12 player Myck Kabongo, has yet to play this season. Kabongo averaged over 11 ppg as a freshman last year but has not been cleared to play this season due to an ongoing investigation by the NCAA into his relationship with an agent. Kabongo traveled to Maui but has not been ruled eligible as of November 19, 2012.

If Kabongo has not been cleared and UNC makes it to the finals, it’s the Heels’ game to lose. Now we sound like Roddy White. If the Longhorns fall before getting to the finals the Heels should also have the advantage over any other opponent.

Prediction: UNC 77, Texas 66