A closer look at the 2015 Maui Invitational field, bracket

  • 07/30/2015 10:57 am in

The 2015 Maui Jim Maui Invitational field has been known for a while, but the bracket for the late November tournament was just revealed earlier this week.

This year’s field includes four of the top 10 winningest programs in college basketball history (Kansas, St. John’s, UCLA and Indiana) and a combined 20 national championships.

Here’s our early primer for the 2015 Maui Invitational:

Dates: November 23-25
Venue: Lahaina Civic Center – Maui, Hawaii (2,400)
Broadcast information: ESPN family of networks
Participants: Chaminade, Indiana, Kansas, St. John’s, UCLA, UNLV, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest
Matchups: 2015 Maui Jim Maui Invitational Bracket

The favorite: Kansas. The Jayhawks are a top 10 team in nearly every early top 25 for next season and for good reason. Guards Devonte’ Graham, Frank Mason III, Brannen Greene and Wayne Selden Jr. are all back, as are Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis in the frontcourt. Bill Self also welcomes McDonald’s All-Americans Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo. Kansas already has a leg up on most of the field because it played in the World University Games earlier this month in Gwangju, South Korea and won a gold medal.

Best opening day matchup: UCLA-UNLV. While the other three opening games should have clear favorites, this one is a bit of a tossup on paper. Both teams have strength on the interior. UNLV boasts freshman McDonald’s All-American Stephen Zimmerman and one of the better shotblockers in the country in sophomore Goodluck Okonoboh while UCLA counters with a 7-footer in Thomas Welsh and also Tony Parker and Jonah Bolden, who was ineligible last season. Steve Alford’s son, Bryce, also returns for the Bruins. UCLA will be looking to build off its surprising run to the Sweet 16 last season while UNLV coach Dave Rice faces some pressure to win this season after two straight NCAA tournament misses.

Team flying under the radar: Vanderbilt. The absolute dominance of the SEC by Kentucky and Florida in recent years have pushed some of the league’s other programs down the national pecking order. However, the Commodores look like a solid bet to make some noise nationally in 2015-2016. Kevin Stallings returns his three leading scorers in Damian Jones, Riley LaChance and Wade Baldwin from a team that finished 21-14 and won a pair of games in the N.I.T. Given that both teams finished in the top 20 nationally a season ago in adjusted offensive efficiency, a potential day two matchup of Indiana-Vanderbilt would be intriguing, if it materializes.

A player to watch for each team:

· Chaminade: Kuany Kuany. The Swords, a Division II program, are the annual Maui hosts and are afforded the luxury of playing Kansas to open the event. Kuany, a Pacific West Conference third team honoree last season, averaged 15.1 points in 2014-2015.

· Indiana: Yogi Ferrell. Indiana’s point guard returned for his senior season with the goal of leading the Hoosiers on a deep NCAA tournament run. The bright lights of this event and a national audience are likely to bring out some memorable performances.

· Kansas: Cheick Diallo. No, he’s not going to be Kansas’ leading scorer. But Diallo, the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game, plays with a ridiculous motor and will be a force around the rim. In a field stocked with frontcourt talent, look for Diallo to rise to the occasion.

· St. John’s: Durand Johnson. First year coach Chris Mullin has a major rebuilding task on his hands, but Johnson brings some much needed experience. The former Pittsburgh guard, who sat out last season due to a suspension, can play immediately and has one year of eligibility.

· UCLA: Bryce Alford. He can flat out fill it up from the perimeter, as SMU and UAB learned in the 2015 NCAA tournament. Alford went for 50 points in those two NCAA wins and made close to three 3s per game.

· UNLV: Stephen Zimmerman. One of the most coveted recruits in the 2015 class elected to stay home and there’s pressure to produce right away. The 7-footer is a skilled post player who runs the floor well and immediately becomes the centerpiece for the Runnin’ Rebels.

· Vanderbilt: Damian Jones. He’s the best player in the field that you’ve may have never heard of. At 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds, he was the leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker for the Commodores last season. Draft Express ranks him No. 16 on its 2016 mock draft.

· Wake Forest: Cody Miller-McIntyre. An all-ACC honorable mention selection as a junior, Miller-McIntyre averaged 14.5 points, 4.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds last season.

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  • TomJameson

    Wow, a lot of talented individuals AND talented teams. Not a cake walk for anybody … maybe Kansas the first game, but that’s probably just about it.

  • SCHoosier

    Looks like Mr. Bryant will be challenged early and often.

  • IMSKRONG

    Kansas has depth. They have bigs and some big guards. Could be Seldens year finally. Would be a handful for our guards size wise.

  • TomJameson

    I think this series will be a good test for TB, and the team in general. IU will play Austin Peay Nov 16, and Creighton Nov 19, both at AH. So they won’t be going into Maui cold. I just hope that’s enough to give everybody time to work on “tuning” things up.

  • Bill Graham

    I’m not too worried about our side of the bracket. It will be interesting to see how Bryant handles Jones though. The team that scares me the most is UCLA. Alford is an awesome floor leader (the player not Steve), Bolden is lengthy and quick. Welsh and Parker are huge. And they have Prince Ali coming in (any player who was in the movie Aladdin should be good).
    Kansas is definitely the most talented team in the tourney, but I’ve tracked them very closely over the past couple of years and I’ve said (ever since they had Tharpe take over) they have major point guard issues. Mason’s decision making is terrible most of the time. When your loaded with All-Stars all you have to do is be a John Stockton (assist man) yet Mason only averaged 3.9 assists on last years studly roster (he also average 2 turnovers). To put that in perspective Myles Mack had better numbers (4.2/2) with a terrible Rutgers team. Or take TJ McConnell for instance with an (arguably) equally talented Zona team he avg 6.3/2 and had 3 other starters in double figures (Mason only had 1) and he had 2 other guys that were borderline double figure guys b.c. of his ball distribution.
    ~Mark my words Kansas will lose some games this year but it won’t be b.c of Diallo and Ellis’s performances….it will be because of Mason’s decision making issues.
    (and wow that turned into a rant quickly)

  • At the Quarries

    If our mutual adversary was any indication last year (Wichita St.), we were the better team.

  • Hardwood83

    So who would we rather see IU meet in the final, UCLA or KU? Obivously playing against Stevie and the powder blue boys would be fun….but KU has much more National Cred.
    KU seems to be more of a match-up problem for IU, but I wasn’t impressed with them last year as they were less than the sum of their parts….which is odd considering they won their league. Of course I wasn’t impressed with IU that often either!

  • IMSKRONG

    KU also just won gold in South Korea. And they’re not too worried about their guards with Mason, Graham, Selden and Greene (if healthy). Mason got better last year as the season went on. KU will also have some depth down low this year after adding Bragg and Diallo. Losing Alexander hurt them last year. But I wouldn’t over look Mason by any means.

  • David Macer

    I want to go so bad !! On the wait list !! Possible 2nd honeymoon for me and the wife !!

  • I assume there will be exhibitions and also another game before the Austin Peay and Creighton games as well.

  • Bill Graham

    I agree they are loaded but ability and decision making are 2 different things. KU lost several close games last year b/c of Mason’s decision making. Also, Self historically is a 1 pg for 30 + mins type of guy; therefore, I wouldn’t think Graham will get much time at the 1. Thats why Frankamp left (who was actually there best ball distributor). KU is a bracket buster this year. be warned.

  • Ole Man

    I’d like to see IU beat Wake in the opener. 🙂
    They return their top five scorers. Manning is very quickly becoming a good coach.
    They added two fine recruits.

  • OhioHoosier

    I like rob rising to the occasion

  • IMSKRONG

    Frank Mason was obviously able to lead the team to Gold. He also got to play with Nic Moore (SMU point guard last year) while winning gold. Maybe he learned something. Self is a good coach. And was able to get to make an Elite 8 with Naadir Tharpe at point. A Nat’l Title game the year before with Tyshawn Taylor. He doesn’t have great PG’s. He wants 2’s and 3’s to try and get to the bucket.

  • SilentBob

    Ole Man keeping it real lol. Doral Moore will be a real problem. True seven footer who might be the most naturally gifted shot blocker in the 2015 class, our offense sucked against good shot blockers last year. And Crawford….. I was extremely disappointed (bout the only one as I have loved the job Chuck is doing) when our recruitment of him fell off after Johnsons departure. His speed with the ball could spell tragedy with our guards and with his ability to finish through contact could spell big problems for Thomas as well.

  • TomJameson

    Thanks Alex, forgot about the exhibitions. Another “real” game would be great also. I really think that when this team gels together with their in-game rhythms, they are going to be very dangerous.

  • Ole Man

    LOL. Glad you didn’t say I was being negative. And your analysis is why I’m not looking past them.

  • TomJameson

    I don’t think you’re being negative either. I think that it is NEVER safe to look past a team, no mater who they are. There are too many college players that can come out and catch fire.

  • SCHoosier

    I’d just like to see IU MAKE the finals..then let the best team (at that point n the season) win!

  • Bill Graham

    Ya but that’s the problem! Mason last year was a drive first (try to score first pg) which made it hard for Selden and Oubre to score. On a team with studs you gotta pass man. Take the Kansas State game, Mason was 1-8 and in the last 8 mins when KState took the lead and won, Bill self’s ‘floor general’ missed 3 shots and had 0 assists (Not exactly the epitome of offensive perfection). Or what about Mason going 1-10 when the hawks got trounced by 32 to Kensucky? (Mason also had 0 assists). Or what about the Stanford game a year before when Mason turned it over then the next possession fired a terrible 3 shot which Brown grabbed and transitioned into an and-1 ultimately knocking KU out of the tournament? Or how about the fact that KU had a 48 post forum blog about how Mason is selfish and has poor decision making? (and ya thats just last year).
    Yes, KU may have won some games overseas. Yes, Mason may be improving…but the fact of the matter is: it doesn’t matter how loaded your team is if your point guard can’t get them the ball (by the way if you check the box scores of all those games I mentioned you won’t find a single assist from Mason in the last 10 mins in any of them). Not exactly the type of leadership I want when the game is on the line.

  • SilentBob

    Oh no, although I find positivity to make being a fan more enjoyable, one does have to maintain at least a fraction of realism to not drive himself insane. Coach Crean is always prone to drop at least a few duds against teams he “should” beat. After giving up career highs to Rozier and Van Fleet, looking like a fool against every other good guard along the way, and offering up two stat stuffers to Hammons your position is more than justifiable.

    If Thomas can stay on the floor I think we should win the battle of the boards and escape with a W. But if IU wants to advance in this tournament they will have to earn every bit of it. Wake Forrest is no Rutgers. Good talent and coaches on both sides of the bracket IMO.

  • TomJameson

    I believe there will be 2 exhibition games, and 3 other games. A guess, but I think a good guess.