November 24, 2008

The Ultimate Maui Invitational Preview

Pre-Tournament Honors

All-Maui First-Team

G - Ty Lawson - North Carolina - (14.0 ppg and 5.7 apg)
G - A.J. Abrams - Texas - (18.0 ppg and 2.0 apg)
F - Tyler Hansbrough - North Carolina - (13.0 pts, 7.0 rpg)
F - Luke Harangody - Notre Dame - (28.5 pts, 15.5 rpg)
F - Damion James - Texas - (14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds)

All-Maui Second-Team

G - Ronald Steele - Alabama - (20.0 pts, 3.0 rpg)
G - Wayne Ellington - North Carolina - (15.3 ppg and 3.7 rpg)
G - LeKendrick Longmire - Oregon - (16.5 pts and 4.5 rpg)
F - Ahmad Nivins - St. Joseph's - (21.0 ppg and 12.5 rpg)
F - Deon Thompson - North Carolina - (16.3 ppg and 8.7 rpg)

5 Freshmen to watch

G - Andrew Steele - Alabama - (10.0 ppg and 1.0 rpg)
F - Tom Pritchard - Indiana (16.0 pts, 10.0 rpg)
F - JaMychal Green - Alabama - (14.5 ppg and 10.0 rpg)
F - Ed Davis - North Carolina - (9.7 ppg and 9.0 rpg)
C - Michael Dunigan - Oregon - (14.0 ppg and 8.5 rpg)

Best coach - Roy Williams - North Carolina
Best player - Harangody
Best shooter - Abrams
Best player in the clutch - Hansbrough and Harangody
Best junkyard dog: Notre Dame's Zach Hillesland
Learn the name: Davis and Green
Most underrated: Nivins

Tournament Schedule

Monday, Nov. 24

Game 1 Saint Joseph's vs. Texas 2 pm (ESPN2)
Game 2 Indiana vs. Notre Dame 4:30 pm (ESPN2)
Game 3 North Carolina vs. Chaminade 8:30 pm (ESPNU)
Game 4 Oregon vs. Alabama 11 pm (ESPN2)

Tuesday, Nov. 25

Game 5 Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser 12:30 pm (ESPNU)
Game 6 Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser 3 pm (ESPN2)
Game 7 Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner 6 pm (ESPN)
Game 8 Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner 8:30 pm (ESPN)

Wednesday, Nov. 26

Game 9 Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner 1 pm (ESPN2)
Game 10 Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser 3:30 pm (ESPN2)
Game 11 Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser 6 pm (ESPNU)
Game 12 Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner 9 pm (ESPN)

Team Previews

Games 1 and 2 Bracket

Indiana

Record: 2-0
Games: Beat Northwestern State 83-65 and IUPUI 60-57
Coach: Tom Crean, 9th season (190-96)

Top Players: F - 6-9 freshman Tom Pritchard (16.0 pts, 10.0 rpg), G - 6-2 junior Devan Dumes (15.5 ppg and 2.5 rpg), G 6-3 freshman Matt Roth (10.5 ppg and 1.5 rpg), G - 6-5 freshman Verdell Jones (10.0 ppg and 4.0 apg) and G - 6-4 freshman Nick Williams (8.0 ppg and 8.5 rpg)

Will advance to Tournament final if... - One of the nation's youngest team's plays beyond their years in potential match-ups with top ten team's Notre Dame and Texas.

Reality check: The Hoosiers have a lot of talent, but this tournament is full of men and Indiana has a few kids that are still teething. Four of the top five scorers are freshmen, so there's no way to get around the fact that they are learning on the fly. If you want to find this team' biggest weakness, take a look at their lack of size inside. Northwestern State killed them on the glass (52-41) and their overall lack of beef inside will probably be exposed by Texas if the two teams match up in the second round.

Notre Dame

Record: 2-0
Games: Beat South Carolina-Update 94-58 and Loyola Marymount (road) 65-54
Coach: Tom Crean, 14th season (266-138)

Top Players: F - 6-8 junior Luke Harangody (28.5 pts, 15.5 rpg), G - 5-11 junior Tory Jackson (11.0 ppg and 4.0 rpg), C/F - 6-11 senior Luke Zeller (12.0 ppg and 3.5 rpg), F - 6-9 senior Zach Hillesland (8.5 ppg and 7.0 rpg) and G - 6-7 senior Ryan Ayers (8.0 ppg and 2.5 rpg)

Will advance to Tournament final if... - Their size, experience and unselfishness hide what deficiencies they might have in the form of athleticism. This one of the most experienced teams in the nation and they bring a lot of size to the table, which makes them one of the best rebounding teams in the field.

Reality check: There's a lot to like about this Irish team. Harangody has played like an All-American through the first two games of the season and he's the type of guy that can carry a team through three games in three nights. Haggard will be a major challenge for every team in this tournament because he's a high-effort player that makes a living at getting teams in foul trouble and converting those chances into points. The only thing that makes you nervous about this team is that they don't have a lot of players that can create their own shots and if an opponent can get their transition game going, the Irish will have a had time keeping up. Overall, the Irish do a lot of little things very well (led the nation in assists last year). It wouldn't shock anyone at all if they emerge from this game with three straight wins.

St. Joseph's

Record: 1-1
Games: Beat Rider 69-57 and lost to Holy Cross 60-57
Coach: Phil Martelli, 14th season (261-152)

Top Players: F - 6-9 senior Ahmad Nivins (21.0 ppg and 12.5 rpg), G - 6-1 junior Darrin Govens (16.0 ppg 4.0 rpg), G - 6-4 senior Tasheed Carr (12.0 ppg and 3.5 apg), F - 6-7 sophomore Idris Hilliard (9.0 ppg and 6.0 rpg) and G - 6-5 junior Garrett Williamson (3.0 ppg and 3.0 apg)

Will advance to Tournament final if... - They play over their heads and get some hot play from the backcourt duo of Govens and Carr. The Hawks will need to find a bench somewhere along the way.

Reality check: The Hawks have a solid backcourt and a top-notch low-post player in Nivins, so they have the ingredients to be a dangerous team in this field, but the lack of depth (only 8.0 ppg coming off the bench) and viable size to complement Nivins are major issues facing them this week.

Texas

Record: 2-0
Games: Beat Rider 69-57 and lost to Holy Cross 60-57
Coach: Rick Barnes, 21st season (451-227)

Top Players: G - G 5-10 senior A.J. Abrams (18.0 points, and 2.0 assists), F - 6-7 junior Damion James (14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds), F - 6-11 senior forward Connor Atchley (13.0 points and 4.5 rebounds), G - 6-2 junior Justin Mason (5.5 points and 5.0 assists) and
F/C - 6-10 junior Dexter Pittman (10.0 points and 5.0 rebounds)

Will advance to Tournament final if... - The Longhorns can continue thrive in the transition game because of their stingy defense. The Longhorns have the nicest mix of inside/outside scoring, along with North Carolina, in the entire field, but they can get into a rut offensively at times, which makes all of their points in transition a key to their offensive success.

Reality check: The Longhorns are one of three favorites in the field to walk away with the tournament championship, but their weaknesses will be tested in this three-game stretch. The team's shaky free-throw shooting could come under fire if they get into close games with Notre Dame in game two or North Carolina in the title game.

Games 3 and 4 Bracket

Alabama

Record: 1-1
Games: Lost to Mercer 72-69 and beat Florida A&M 89-48
Coach: Mark Gottfried, 14th season (267-149)

Top Players: G - 6-2 senior Ronald Steele (20.0 pts, 3.0 rpg), F - 6-9 freshman JaMychal Green (14.5 ppg and 10.0 rpg), G - 6-5 junior Mikhail Torrance (10.5 ppg and 1.0 rpg), G - 6-3 freshman Andrew Steele (10.0 ppg and 1.0 rpg) and G - 6-1 sophomore Senario Hillman (5.5 ppg and 3.5 apg)

Will advance to Tournament final if... - Don't get pushed around by teams that can push them around. It's hard to envisioning this team having the guns to challenge North Carolina if they make it into round two winner's bracket.

Reality check: In the team's season-opening loss to Mercer, Alabama held their opponent to 39.4% shooting and an even worse 27.8% from three-point range, but they were outrebounded 56-38 and gave up 24 offensive rebounds. Green looks like he might be a future star and Steele is one of the SEC's top guards, but this team appears to lack depth and when only one of your seven-leading scorers averages more than 3.0 rebounds per game, you're probably going to struggle in a three-game/three-night setting.

Chaminade

Record: 0-0
Games: Lost to Hawaii 80-63 in their exhibition opener
Coach: Matt Mahar, 4th season (56-28)

Top Players: F - 6-6 junior Shane Hanson (11.0 pts, 1.0 rpg), G - 6-4 junior Jamar Berry (11.0 ppg and 6.0 rpg), C - 6-8 senior Mohamed Tangara (6.0 ppg and 2.0 rpg), G - 6-4 senior Joel Smith (1.0 ppg and 5.0 rpg) and F - 6-4 junior Ricky Clayborn (10.0 ppg and 7.0 rpg) - * All stats are from the exhibition game against Hawaii.

Will advance to Tournament final if.. - Not happening.

Reality check: There's not a lot to say. They'll be on the opposite end of the winner's bracket in about 10 minutes.

North Carolina

Record: 3-0
Games: Beat 86-71, Kentucky 77-58 and UC-Santa Barbara 84-67
Coach: Roy Williams, 21st season (563-134)

Top Players: F - 6-9 senior Tyler Hansbrough (13.0 pts, 7.0 rpg), F - 6-8 junior Deon Thompson (16.3 ppg and 8.7 rpg), G - 5-11 junior Ty Lawson (14.0 ppg and 5.7 apg), G - 6-4 junior Wayne Ellington (15.3 ppg and 3.7 rpg), G - 6-6 senior Danny Green (9.7 ppg and 3.0 apg) and F - 6-10 freshman Ed Davis (9.7 ppg and 9..0 rpg)

Will advance to Tournament final if... - If they don't play anything less a B- performance in the first two games. While Notre Dame and Texas will have to slay the other to make the final, there's not much standing in the way of North Carolina making the championship game.

Reality check: There's not much not to like about this team. With the return of Hansbrough, Lawson, Ellington and Green from a team that went 36-3 and lost to Kansas in the Final Four, the Tar Heels lead any discussion of national championship contenders this season. UNC is deep, plays great pressure defense, has a great backcourt and can beat you inside or out. Seriously, this is one excellent team that has all of the pieces on deck - a great point guard, silky smooth outside gunners and a ton of size and talent to dominate teams in the paint. Carolina is the tournament favorite entering this week's play for a reason.

Oregon

Record: 2-1
Games: Lost to Mercer 72-69 and beat Florida A&M 89-48
Coach: Ernie Kent, 17th season (303-215)

Top Players: G - 6-5 sophomore LeKendrick Longmire (16.5 pts and 4.5 rpg), C - 6-10 freshman Michael Dunigan (14.0 ppg and 8.5 rpg), G - 5-6 junior Tajuan Porter (11.0 ppg and 3.0 apg) and F - 6-6 junior Joevan Catron (7.5 ppg and 10.0 rpg)

Will advance to Tournament final if... - The six freshmen that have already played this season for the Ducks grow up in a hurry against some real big-boy competition. Longmire would probably need to average 25+ over three games to give Oregon a chance to win the whole thing.

Reality check: This is a team that's really struggling to find their identity early in the season. As a team they are only shooting 36.2% from the field through their first three games. In their overtime loss to Oakland last week, the problems started with a terrible second-half shooting slump (22.2%). This is a middle of the road Pac-10 this year that will probably be better later in the season once Oregon's young kids grow up a little. For now? They might end up being fodder for several teams in the field this week.

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