For the second year in a row, the Maui Invitational is being held on the mainland as this year’s tournament moves from Asheville to the bright lights and glamour of Las Vegas. Let’s take a look at this year’s bracket and first-round matchups:
Texas A&M vs Wisconsin
The Aggies come into this game at 4-0, their best start in the Buzz Williams era and beating opponents by an average of 18 points per game. Wisconsin is their first true test of the season, though, as Providence upset the Badgers in Madison last Monday but Greg Gard’s squad still poses a threat with senior Brad Davison stepping up to lead the Badgers in scoring as one of the bright spots for this team early in the season. How Tyrece Radford and the Aggies respond make this perhaps the closest matchup of the first round.
#15 Houston vs Butler
Coming off a 21 point loss to Michigan State, things don’t get any easier for Butler as the Bulldogs face a tall task in containing Marcus Sasser and the Cougars. Sasser is top-10 in the nation in scoring and the Cougars stingy defense has held their last two opponents under 50. Chuck Harris has led the way for Butler this season but accuracy will be key for the Bulldogs as J’Wan Roberts has been one of the best players at cleaning up the glass at the college level. Houston has come to play in every game so far and they’ve arrived in Las Vegas with a mission to prove they’re one of the deadliest teams in college.
#12 Oregon vs Chaminade
Tournament host Chaminade is back after missing last year’s tournament in North Carolina and they’ll do it against an Oregon team coming off an embarrassing 22-point upset against BYU. Will Richardson will no doubt have the attention of NBA scouts in attendance as he’s led the Ducks in scoring since a Sweet 16 run last season. Oregon looked discombobulated against the Cougars, shooting 32 percent from the field and they’ll look to bounce back against a Chaminade team that has lost 5 of its last 6 in the tournament it hosts.
Notre Dame vs Saint Mary’s
The first round of the Maui Invitational comes to a close with a battle of undefeateds as the 2-0 Fighting Irish take on the 4-0 Gaels. Neither team has been tested this season and this could very well be another close matchup on the first day of action. It’s a body clock game for the Irish who landed in Las Vegas this past Thursday to adjust to the time zone. The Irish have won 15 of their last 16 in-season tournament games and scoring leader Paul Atkinson has been connecting from an astounding 68.4 percent of his shots. Nate Laszewski has been huge for Notre Dame defensively as one of the best rebounders in the country, averaging 12 per game. St. Mary’s still poses the greatest threat to Notre Dame so far this season with consistent scoring from Dan Fotu and Logan Johnson. This is a game that will come down to which team can outlast the other.