In-season tournaments are always a part of the early season scheduling in college basketball. These tournaments can have a huge impact on teams, and help programs add resume-building wins early in the season.
Most tournaments have been announced. Teams hope to strengthen their non-conference schedule and add opportunities for important wins in these tournaments. Here is a look at some of the best tournaments this year.
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Continental Tire Main Event
Baylor, Virginia, Illinois, and UCLA participate in this tournament, which is scheduled to take place November 18-20 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The tournament will feature four teams that will hope to make the NCAA Tournament this season.
Virginia went 21-14 last season and did not make the NCAA Tournament. The team eventually made the quarterfinals of the NIT, but their season ended with a one-point loss to St. Bonaventure. The program won the ACC in 2020-21, and it is likely that they will once again be contenders for this year’s title despite their uncharacteristic year last season.
Baylor was one of the best teams in the country last season, finishing 27-7 and in a tie for the regular season championship in the Big 12. Matthew Mayer left the program in the transfer portal, but the Bears should still be one of the best teams in the country heading into next season.
Last season, Illinois was 23-10 and, like Baylor, finished as co-Champions of the Big Ten regular season. The program adds Mayer from Baylor from the portal along with Terrence Shannon. Dain Dainja, who also transferred to the program from Baylor, should also make an impact this season as the team hopes to again contend for the Big Ten title.
UCLA finished last season 27-8 and reached the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to North Carolina. This year the program will be helped by a strong recruiting class, and they could be a Pac-12, and National Championship, contender.
Overall, this tournament features four teams that should all compete to win their conference titles and reach the NCAA Tournament. It will be a massive opportunity for each team, as it is possible, if not likely, that multiple teams will enter the tournament with a Top 15 ranking in the national polls.
Maui Jim Maui Invitational
It isn’t a surprise that this year’s Maui Invitational will again be one of college basketball’s best tournaments. The annual tournament has become one of the trademark events of the college basketball season each year. This year’s Maui Invitational will feature Arizona, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Creighton, Louisville, Ohio State, San Diego State, and Texas Tech.
Arizona, Arkansas, and Texas Tech were three of the best teams in college basketball last season. Arizona won both the Pac-12 regular season and tournament, reached the Sweet Sixteen, and finished the season 33-4 and No.2 in the AP Poll.
Arkansas reached the Elite Eight, where they lost to Duke. The team finished 28-9, and one of the best recruiting classes in school history has set the program up for national title contention. Meanwhile, Texas Tech finished last year at 27-10 and as a consensus Top 15 team, they will be in contention to win the Big 12 yet again this season.
Ohio State reached the NCAA Tournament last season and has won at least 20 games five years in a row, while Creighton went 23-12 last season and also reached the NCAA Tournament. Cincinnati finished the season 18-15, but reached the NCAA Tournament in 2019 and won the AAC in 2020.
This year, Kenny Payne will begin his first season as the head coach at Louisville. The Cardinals finished last season with a 13-19 record, but Payne will hope to rebuild the program quickly. The final team in the tournament is San Diego State, a program that won the Mountain West regular season and tournament in 2020-21 before reaching the NCAA Tournament last season.
Overall, the Maui Invitational features seven programs that made the NCAA Tournament last year, along with one of college basketball’s most recognizable programs, Louisville. It should be one of the best tournaments during the college basketball season yet again this year.
Battle 4 Atlantis
As with the Maui Invitational, the Battle 4 Atlantis has become one of the most recognizable events of both the men’s and women’s college basketball seasons. This year’s tournament includes Butler, BYU, Dayton, defending National Champions Kansas, NC State, USC, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
Kansas headlines the tournament as the defending National Champions. Last year, the Jayhawks won the Big 12 regular season and tournament, along with the national title as they finished the season 34-6.
Last year, Dayton won the ESPN Events Invitational and finished the season 24-11 after reaching the second round of the NIT. They and Butler, who finished 14-19 last season, will hope to return to the NCAA Tournament this year.
Tennessee, USC, and Wisconsin were all excellent last season. The Volunteers won the SEC Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament before losing in the second round to Michigan. USC was ranked in the Top 25 for most of the season, and finished third in the Pac-12, before losing to Miami in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin won the Maui Invitational last season, along with being Big Ten co-Champions in the regular season, before losing in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament against Iowa State.
BYU finished last season at 24-11 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT. In 2020-21 the program reached the NCAA Tournament and was ranked in the Top 25. NC State was 11-21 last season, and will hope to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018 this year.
The Battle 4 Atlantis has one of the most interesting groups of teams in any of this year’s tournaments. Kansas will again be a national title contender, while Tennessee, Wisconsin, and USC will all hope to build on last year’s success.
Phil Knight Legacy
The Phil Knight Legacy tournament in Portland, Oregon will feature some of the biggest storylines of the early part of the college basketball season. Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Oregon State, Portland State, Purdue, West Virginia, and Xavier will participate in this year’s tournament.
Jon Scheyer begins his first season at Duke this year, and the Phil Knight Legacy tournament could be the site of some of his first Top 25 matchups as the head coach of the program. The Blue Devils finished first in the ACC in the regular season last year and reached the Final Four before their season ended against rivals North Carolina.
Gonzaga and Purdue have been two of college basketball’s best teams over the last two seasons, and both reached the Sweet Sixteen last year. Gonzaga will enter the season as a Top 5 team, while Purdue reached No.1 in the rankings last season and could be a Top 25 program again this season.
Another first-year head coach will be involved in the tournament, as Todd Golden begins his first season at the University of Florida. Golden helped lead San Francisco back to the NCAA Tournament last season before departing to become the head coach at Florida. Sean Miller will also return to Xavier this season after departing the program in 2009. Xavier won the NIT last season and will hope to return to the NCAA Tournament in Miller’s first year.
West Virginia finished last season 16-17, but reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2020-21 and should be improved this year. Portland State finished last season at 14-17 but were 10-10 in conference play, while Oregon State finished 3-28 last year but reached the Elite Eight in 2020-21.
Duke and Gonzaga headline the Phil Knight Legacy tournament, which will have one of the best groups of teams in any tournament this year. If Duke and Gonzaga play each other in the tournament final it could be one of the best non-conference games of the season.
Phil Knight Invitational
Just like the Phil Knight Legacy tournament, the Phil Knight Invitational features a phenomenal group of teams; Alabama, Iowa State, Michigan State, North Carolina, Oregon, Portland, UConn, and Villanova.
North Carolina headlines the tournament. The Tar Heels reached last season’s national title game, but ultimately lost to Kansas by three points. UNC will likely be a Top 10 team when preseason polls are released.
Last year, Alabama spent most of the first half of the season in the Top 25, and reached the NCAA Tournament. Iowa State finished the season 22-13 and reached the Sweet Sixteen; finishing the year No.23 in the coaches poll.
Like Alabama, Michigan State spent most of the season ranked in the Top 25. The Spartans eventually reached the second round of the tournament, but lost to Duke and finished the season 23-13. Oregon did not make the tournament last year, but reached the second round of the NIT with a 20-15 record. Both Oregon and Michigan State could be in the Top 25 ahead of next season.
Kyle Neptune will begin his tenure as the head coach at Villanova this season after Jay Wright retired last year. Villanova reached the final four last season, but lost to eventual national champions Kansas. Fellow Big East members UConn join the Wildcats at the Phil Knight Invitational. UConn was 23-10 last season and was a No.5 seed at the tournament, but lost in a first-round upset against New Mexico State.
Portland, who finished last season 19-15, is the final member of the group of teams at the tournament. The Phil Knight Invitational and the Phil Knight Legacy tournaments could be two of college basketball’s best events next season.
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