2019 Maui Invitational bracket features possible Kansas vs. Michigan State matchup in final
We predict the Spartans will edge the Jayhawks in this year's Maui Invitational championship game
One of the best early-season college basketball tournaments each year, the Maui Invitational, is appropriately outfitted with one of the best non-NCAA Tournament fields we'll see in any event this upcoming season.
The eight-team field in 2019 is made up of preseason top-5 teams Michigan State and Kansas, ranked No. 1 and No. 5 in the , respectively. Also in the field: Georgia, Dayton, Virginia Tech, BYU, UCLA, and NAIA program Chaminade. Chaminade is the host and the heavy underdog with a brutal first-game draw of Kansas.
Here's a look at the full bracket. The event will start Nov. 25 with Georgia and Dayton, and wraps Nov. 27.
Georgia vs. Dayton
Talent abounds in this underrated pairing. Georgia has a projected top-5 pick entering the season in freshman guard Anthony Edwards, and Dayton has a high-flying athletic star in Obi Toppin primed to produce some monster oohs and aahs among the contingent of hoops fans who will be on site to take this game in. Both teams could be NCAA Tournament-quality. But with so much unknown due to graduations and new departures, they're more blank slates than bankable tournament teams. Fun fact: The last time these two played was Dec. 21, 1973; Dayton won 63-55.
Michigan State vs. Virginia Tech
Michigan State has just about everything on its side here: roster continuity, coaching advantage, and most importantly, Cassius Winston, a potential First-Team All-American. The Spartans are national title contenders on paper after bringing back the bulk of last season's team which made it to the Final Four. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, is entering its first season under new coach Mike Young after Buzz Williams left for Texas A&M. MSU is 8-4 in the Maui Invitational and last won the event in 1991 -- when Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo was a Sparty assistant.
Kansas vs. Chaminade
Chaminade is 0-3 against Kansas all-time, its last loss to the Jayhawks coming in 2015 by a whopping 51 points. This game won't be particularly exciting. It will, however, be a good primer for fans to see what the new-look Jayhawks will be next season. After losing Dedric Lawson, KU is set to rely even more heavily on sophomore guard Devon Dotson and a supporting cast featuring Ochai Agbaji. Big man Udoka Azubuike returning from injury is reason enough to tune in.
BYU vs. UCLA
The Mick Cronin era is underway in Westwood. His style of play was successful at Cincinnati with lesser talent, so what can he accomplish with the Bruins? thinking the hire wasn't splashy but it will wind up working out well. Still, next year could be rough with the team's top three scorers from last year's team gone. With Yoeli Childs returning to BYU, the Cougars could be the darkhorse to win not only this game, but the tournament.
- Quarterfinals: Dayton over Georgia; Michigan State over Virginia Tech; Kansas over Chaminade; BYU over UCLA
- Semifinals: Michigan State over Dayton; Kansas over BYU
- Championship game: Michigan State over Kansas
Michigan State has too much goods here. Cassius Winston's a year older and wiser, Joshua Langford should be back and healthy, and Xavier Tillman's an under-the-radar NBA prospect who I expect to emerge as a force.
If it's Kansas that MSU will face in the championship, they'll have their hands full. Azubuike is borderline unguardable even for a plodding big, and Dotson's defensive pressure on the perimeter could force Winston and MSU's offense to stall out on occasion. I think Sparty's experience and top-end talent wins out and they capture their second Maui title 28 years removed from their first.
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