Maui Invitational Still Top Of The List Among College Hoops Tourneys
College basketball tournaments "come and go like pop-up shops," but the Maui Invitational "not only forges on; it thrives," according to Dana O'Neil of THE ATHLETIC. The tournament began yesterday, and the field "includes the Nos. 1 (Duke), 3 (Gonzaga) and 9 (Auburn) teams in the nation, and schools from eight leagues, and all five power conferences." Tournament host Chaminade for the first time is not in the field, and organizers said that the decision "was mutual," as moving the D-II school to the "'mainlands bracket' allows the team a chance to play in bigger arenas and get some guaranteed money." It also "allows the networks to broadcast and the organizers to sell tickets" for eight D-I teams, not seven. So it is "hard not to be cynical and see this as more business decision than mutually beneficial" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/19). In Honolulu, Brian McInnis noted by renewing Chaminade, Chicago-based sports marketing firm KemperLesnik, which runs the tournament, "sought to strengthen the field on an alternating-year basis in their TV partnership with ESPN." This year, San Diego State "took the slot traditionally reserved for the host team, which will be back" in '19. In exchange, Chaminade "played preseason exhibitions at Arizona and SDSU, plus money guarantees" (STARADVERTISER.com, 11/19). Gonzaga coach Mark Few cited "several reasons why the tournament is generally regarded as the best holiday event on the college basketball calendar." Few: “This is the one tournament that really moves the needle with your players, with your fans -- they’re always asking when are we going back to Maui -- and even in recruiting. If you mention Maui in recruiting at the highest level, the kids are very excited” (Spokane SPOKESMAN-REVIEW, 11/19).