2012 Maui Invitational Preview and Predictions


maui invitational logo

As much as Feast Week is about stuffing your face with turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes; it’s also about sweet college basketball tournaments like the Maui Invitational.  This field is not as stacked as a year ago when Duke needed a pair of Tyler Thornton “Onions” three pointers to beat Kansas in the title game.  Nevertheless here are my predictions from a field which includes North Carolina, Texas, Marquette, Illinois, and Butler.

Here is the link to the official 2012 Maui Invitational bracket.

QUARTERFINALS (Monday):
Marquette vs. Butler, 2:30 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
The Golden Eagles have relied on their frontcourt of Jamil Wilson, Davante Gardner, and Chris Otule so far as the trio is averaging 37 points per game.  The starting backcourt of Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue, and Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett have gotten off to a slow start combining to shoot just 12-39 from the field.

The Bulldogs were smacked around a bit by Xavier in their last game.  Brad Stevens’ team is leaning on sharpshooting guards Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Durham who have already attempted 28 triples through two games.  If Marquette can take a note of what the Musketeers’ did by preventing that duo from going off from distance, the Golden Eagles should advance to the semi’s.

Prediction: Marquette 68, Butler 61

North Carolina vs. Mississippi State, 5:00 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
Even without four starters from last year, UNC has reloaded like they always do.  As expected, James Michael McAdoo has taken the leap averaging 21 points and 11.3 rebounds through three games.  There is plenty of athleticism on the roster and when guys like Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston get hot from deep; the Heels can put points on the board in a hurry.

The Bulldogs are in a massive rebuilding year and lost their season opener at Troy.  They will be without two starters; veteran guard Jalen Steele who is out approximately six weeks with an injury and suspended forward Colin Borchert.

Prediction: North Carolina 88, Mississippi State 57

Texas vs. Chaminade, 8:30 pm, ESPNU

What to Watch:
The Longhorns are still without point guard Myck Kabongo as the NCAA is still determining whether or not he took impermissible benefits this off-season.  Freshman Javan Felix has been thrust into the starting role having played 71 minutes in the Horns’ first two games.  He has been decent all-around averaging 5 points, 5 assists, and 6.5 assists per game but has turned it over 11 times.  Texas has a lot of size this year and should be able to overpower the host school with no problems.

Prediction: Texas 76, Chaminade 49

Illinois vs. USC, 11:00 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
The Illini have already played a game in Hawaii, needing a D.J. Richardson three-pointer at the overtime buzzer to beat the Warriors Friday evening.  It is all about the guard play for first year head coach John Groce as Richardson, Brandon Paul, and Tracy Abrams are averaging more than 47 of Illinois’ 81 points per game.

The Trojans are deeper and more talented than they have been in a couple of years but will still try to grind out victories by slowing down the tempo.  If they can impose their defensive will and not let the Illini get out and run, I think USC pulls off the mini-upset.

Prediction: USC 62, Illinois 61 OT

SEMIFINALS (Tuesday):
Marquette vs. North Carolina, 7:00 pm, ESPN

What to Watch:
This is a rematch from the 2011 Sweet 16 in which UNC smacked Marquette around thank to their huge size advantage.  This time around, the Golden Eagles actually have the size advantage inside so Otule and Gardner’s physicality must overpower the length and athleticism of the Heels’ fonrtcourt while also sprinting back on D to not let McAdoo run rim to rim. Both teams like to push tempo whenever possible so forcing turnovers and converting fast break opportunities will be essential for both squads.  Carolina has more weapons from the perimeter which I think gives them the edge.

Prediction: North Carolina 77, Marquette 70

Texas vs. USC, 9:30 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
A veteran USC squad that will play as many as nine upperclassmen versus a Texas team with only freshmen and sophomores on scholarship.  This comes down to me A) not quite ready to trust Felix in what will be a half-court game versus a stout Trojan defense and B) needing to pick at least one “Cinderella” team to make it to the Finals.

Prediction: USC 57, Texas 52

FIFTH PLACE GAME (Wednesday)
Butler vs. Illinois, 4:00, ESPN2

What to Watch:
With the type of guards that both teams have, it’s going to be a hit or miss occasion on a nightly basis so whichever team gets better play from their frontcourt goes home with a pair of wins from Maui and the distinction of taking 5th place.  Andrew Smith has to eventually show up for the Bulldogs and Khyle Marshall’s versatility will be a tough match-up for Tyler Griffey or whoever ends up guarding him.

Prediction: Butler 69, Illinois 67

THIRD PLACE GAME (Wednesday):
Marquette vs. Texas, 6:30, ESPN2

What to Watch:
I’m giving the nod to Marquette’s veteran backcourt in this one.  Lockett needs to step up for MU to reach their potential this season and no better place to breakout than a somewhat must-win third place game in Maui.  I say somewhat must-win because whoever losses this game heads back to the mainland with a 1-2 record on the islands.

Prediction: Marquette 72, Texas 69

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Wednesday):
USC vs. North Carolina, 9:00 pm, ESPN

What to Watch:
While much improved on offense from a year ago, USC just doesn’t have the offensive firepower to compete with a team like UNC unless they totally control tempo which is very hard to do against the run-and-gun Heels’.  Fatigue shouldn’t be too much of an issue which is typically a concern on the third straight game day since both teams can go ten deep and should have fresh enough legs.  I think this one stays within a bucket or two in the first half but Carolina blows things open after the break.  McAdoo is your Maui MVP and this three day stretch really puts him on the map like what happened with Kemba Walker two years ago when UConn brought home the tourney title.

Prediction: North Carolina 78, USC 55

David Kay is a senior feature NBA DraftNBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)

You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.

Comments

  1. paulmbanks says:

    well u saw what my Illini did to USC. Yes that was a surprise to me too. but I guess your bracket is busted here

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