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NCAA Basketball

The Maui Wowie…Best Preseason Tourney In College

The 25th Annual (EA Sports) Maui Invitational is underway and as usual opening day provided some exciting basketball action, as well as several cutaways in and out of commercial breaks showing all the beauty and splendor that Hawaii’s second-largest island has to offer. Needles to say it was on and cracking, here is a brief recap of Monday’s action.

Saint Joseph’s 50, (7)Texas 68 – The Longhorns easily disposed of the jesus freaks,jk, in the opening game of the tourney behind 17 points from guard A.J. Abrams. It’s never easy playing the first game in Maui, but Texas was able to jump out to a 15-4 lead early in the 1st half and never looked back. This sets up an exciting Top-10 matchup between two traditional football powerhouses. This game should be cracking and expect several hot Longhorn fans in the crowd, along with a few decent ones representing Fighting Irish. Just being realistic.

Indiana 50, (8)Notre Dame 88 – Fighting Irish guards Troy Jackson and Kyle McAlarney combined for 39 points and 9 assists and last year’s Big East Player of the Year Luke “I-kinda-look-like-Drago” Harangody added 14 points and 5 boards as Tom Creen’s Hoosiers were handed their first loss of the season. It’s probs going to be a long season for Indiana, but that’s what next year is for. Odds are you won’t expect to see any Hoosier players or staff at the evening Luau.

(1)UNC 115, Chaminade 70 – The Tar Heels easily handled the proverbial David vs. Goliath matchup of the tourney. Roy Smith’s gang looked like a well oiled machine against an inferior opponent. Psycho T still hasn’t made his eagerly anticipated debut, but Danny Green filled in marvelously dropping 26 points and 7 rebounds on the Silverswords in limited minutes. Look for a much more exciting game tomorrow when the ‘Heels try to embarass yet another Pac-10 squad.

Oregon 92, Alabama 69 – Ever since Ernie Kent decided to cut the box fade, the Ducks have not been the same squad, but they raised a ton of eyebrows (actually everyone on the east has beeeeeent asleep) with their smashing of the Crimson Tide. The game was close until late in the 2nd half when the Ducks were able to open things up behind freshman Michael Dunigan’s 18 points and 9 boards. Tomorrow the Ducks get the opportunity to take down Goliath and add another quality win to the always important NCAA tourney resume.

From the perspective of a college basketball player or fan, the Maui invitational is hands down the best preseason tourney. Although teams are only allowed to participate in the event every 4 years (I think), you can bet once their probationary period ends they are clamoring to get in the mix again. Comprised of 8 teams, which generally consists of at least 3-4 established power conference programs, a few up-and-comers and finally host school Chaminade. The 3-day spectacle conjures up memories of AAU style events and although the schedule is grueling, with a game each day, who wouldn’t want to spend 6 days in winter on the Hawaiian islands.

As a player, the tournament conditions couldn’t be better, let’s be honest for a second, it’s never easy playing three games in a row, but it’s much easier than two-a-days with nothing but cold weather and saltiness greeting you as you leave the gym. Its even tougher watching normal students, or regs as we call them, getting ready to go home for the holidays, a luxury not afforded to most ballers as the season is just getting underway. Seeing as players don’t get to go home for Thanksgiving anyway, and even fewer will ever get the opportunity to go to Hawaii, participating in this tournament is the ultimate blessing. It’s also a good early test with the goal being not to be the team that will lose all 3 games.

The scene for the event is phenomenal as the organizers always do a good job scheduling at least a few programs with strong fan support. Many diehards, and their families, use this event as an opportunity to escape the generally sloppy weather that the contiguous United States has offer, in exchange for a week of fun in the sun. With the event running from Monday-Wednesay, fans, friends and family who decide to make the trip can take advantage of off peak pricing, which ain’t too shabby.

The games are intense, given the gym’s high school type atmosphere. The Lahaina Civic Center only holds a few thousand people anyway, so its not difficult to have a near sellout crowd for each of the four daily games. The Locker Rooms are right next to each other so both teams can hear what’s going on in the other team’s room. It is important to note that some teams use this to their advantage, getting what the Bay Area heads refer to as Super Hyphy. This can serve to intimidate the opposition, or piss them off and escalate the inevitable servicing.

But the best part is all the action that happens off the court.

For the most part all the teams, fans and especially cheerleaders stay in the same area, in one of the many hotels that line the beaches in Lahaina. Each hotel is only separated by a few hundred yards and usually one or two teams will set up their home base in each resort. This affords everyone, including the players, the opportunity to mash around from sick (overwhelmingly solid) hotel to sick hotel surveying and sometimes sampling what each fine establishment has to offer in terms of: ambiance, decor, pool scene, beach atmosphere and most importantly, species of the opposite sex … usually.

Wednesday night after the tournament concludes, all the teams and their respective entourages take it to the concrete, to celebrate the commencement of 3 days of solid basketball. For the players their is an added reason to celebrate. Thanksgiving is the next day. Great holiday but more importantly it means that the only thing that players have to worry about is eating some turkey and making the long journey home.

Then its back to shitty weather and a heaping helping of more two-a-days, but at least conference play is just around the river bend.

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