Viewer's Guide: Maui Invitational wraps up on Thanksgiving Eve
A top-20 battle to decide the Maui Invitational championship highlights an intriguing night of Thanksgiving Eve games.
As we sit on Thanksgiving Eve, there’s plenty of basketball to watch before you go hang out with old high school buddies at the local watering hole. The Maui Invitational wraps up with some intriguing games, while the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off offer a couple of interesting storylines as well.
Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP Poll.
Best game: No. 8 Syracuse vs. No. 18 Baylor (10 p.m., ESPN). This is a big opportunity for Baylor to make a statement. Despite being 6-0 and owning the country’s longest active winning streak, not everyone is taking the Bears seriously. Beating Syracuse and winning the Maui Invitational could help convince some people. To start, which side’s zone will be more effective? Syracuse has been forcing turnovers at a high rate, although both teams have been allowing far too many open 3-pointers. The battle inside will also be interesting – Baylor’s Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin need to have the edge over the Cuse big man trio of Rakeem Christmas, Dajuan Coleman and Baye Keita. Lastly, which newcomer point guard will control the ball – Tyler Ennis or Kenny Chery?
Second-best game: California vs. Dayton (7:30 p.m., ESPN2). Dayton lost a 10-point lead in the final seven minutes on Tuesday night to Baylor, but the Flyers can bounce back in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational against the Golden Bears. Cal big man Richard Solomon missed Tuesday with a right corneal abrasion, and his status is up in the air for the consolation game. The biggest issue for Cal’s defense could be its lack of perimeter stoppers – Dayton shoots nearly 44 percent from 3-point range. On the other side, Dayton has to keep the Golden Bears off the glass.
Another one to watch: Alabama vs. No. 6 Duke (9:30 p.m., ESPN2). Before we can get to Arizona-Duke on Friday, the Blue Devils need to handle their business against Alabama. Trevor Releford has been fantastic for the Crimson Tide, while Retin Obasohan has been a consistent second weapon. Meanwhile, Duke has struggled in wins over East Carolina and Vermont – could Anthony Grant’s men catch them slipping again? The Crimson Tide need to take care of the ball and attack the rim off the dribble. Duke’s offense has been spectacular, but the defense has left something to be desired.
Guaranteed win: Kentucky barely escaped against Cleveland State on Monday, but the Wildcats shouldn’t have much trouble against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday afternoon (4 p.m., ESPN3). With that said, the Eagles are 5-0 – and did beat aforementioned Cleveland State by 12. Maybe this one stays interesting for a few minutes.
Potential upset: Honestly, didn’t find any on Wednesday night. I think Drexel will keep it close at Arizona, but the Wildcats should come out on top. The only other underdogs that look good, we’ve discussed elsewhere in this column today.
Three things to keep an eye on:
- Gonzaga’s potential for impressive wins took a major hit when it lost to Dayton in the opening round, but the Bulldogs get Arkansas (5 p.m., ESPN2).
- A potential Arizona-Duke matchup on Friday looks tremendous, but the Wildcats need to get by Drexel first (7 p.m., ESPNU).
- Utah is 5-0 to start the season, and the Utes should stay unbeaten against Ball State (10 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
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