We are at that point of the season in college basketball where they are a lot of games taking place that I like to call, “dump games.” You may call them “cupcakes.” The NCAA selection committee may call them RPI killers. I mean, come on! Just look at the list of games I came across this week.
Pitt-Robert Morris? Ohio State-Morehead State? Kansas-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi? Yawn! I’d almost rather be forced to watch Bristol Palin have a chance to win Dancing with the Stars. Ok, maybe not. But, nonetheless, you get the point. However, we’re also at that point where we have some interesting little tournaments. One that I have always enjoyed is the Maui Invitational.
For starters, I enjoy the high school feel of the tournament. I’ve watched many of the games of this tournament throughout the years and bits and pieces of it this year, and the little high school gym is always packed. A quick check of the facts reveal that the games are actually played at Lahaina Civic Center on the island, but you could have fooled me that it was played at a local high school. It also supposedly has a seating capacity of 2,400.
I also get a kick out of the Hawaiian shirts that the coaches are wearing. We’re always so used to seeing them wearing their stuffy suits. It’s kind of neat to seat them wear those colorful Hawaiian shirts. Michigan State is playing in this year’s tournament and I just know Sports Geek, in his ever-present Tom Izzo infatuation, loves seeing Mr. Izzo dressed like that! (Editor’s Note: Bite me.)
Besides, it’s Hawaii. Yeah I know the players and coaches are away from home around the Thanksgiving holiday, but I can think of worse places to be than Maui. Such suffering! While much of the country is going through typical November weather and aggravating TSA full body scans at the airport this week, these guys are lounging around in Hawaii enjoying the life!
More important than all of this is the fact that there is some good basketball that takes places at this tournament. Just this week, I have watched two entertaining games between UConn-Michigan State and Kentucky-Washington. And, look at the list of past champions. Essentially every premier college program has come over to Maui at some point and participated in this tournament. Why? Because it’s a great early season test. Not only is it a chance to pick up some quality out of conference wins, but it is a chance for the coaches to see what they truly have with their teams and what needs improvement. You wouldn’t necessarily get that playing the Sam Houston State’s of the world. The field is usually pretty deep and with the exception of a couple of teams, there are rarely any so-called “cupcakes” in this tournament.
I enjoy the Maui Invitational. Now that I have written that, I’m ready to board the plane and fly over there. But can anyone get me past security in a decent amount of time?