Ranking the top in-season college basketball tournaments in 2022: These brackets may give us November Madness

Ranking the top in-season college basketball tournaments in 2022: These brackets may give us November Madness

USATSI

After an underwhelming opening week for college basketball featuring few marquee matchups, in-season tournaments are approaching to add some punch to the November slate. These bracketed events are on the horizon across the country — and overseas — that will feature quality programs battling it out with each other for early-season resume-building victories.

While much of the sports world remains locked in on football season, this portion of the college basketball calendar can fly under the national radar. But it produces results and insights that will be relevant when conference play rolls around and NCAA Tournament credentials are under evaluation.

Take the performance of Johnny Davis and Wisconsin in last year’s Maui Invitational as an example. The Badgers’ guard emerged by averaging 23.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals during Wisconsin’s three-game championship run that featured wins over Texas A&M, Houston and Saint Mary’s.

The sophomore guard had merely been a role player as a freshman, but the Maui Invitational offered the first big clue that he would become a first-round NBA Draft pick who would lead the Badgers to a share of the Big Ten regular season title and a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. As we prepare for the 2022 in-season tournaments, there are guaranteed to be similar individual and team breakout performances.

Here is a ranking of the best early-season, bracket-style events in college basketball.

1. Maui Invitational

  • Date: Nov. 24-26
  • Lease: Lahaina, Hawaii
  • Matchups: No. 25 Texas Tech vs. No. 9 Creighton, Louisville vs. No. 10 Arkansas, Ohio State vs. No. 19 San Diego State, Cincinnati vs. No. 17 Arizona
  • Breakdown: How much fun would it be seeing Arizona and Arkansas play for the title? Points would flow in abundance. Even if that doesn’t happen, this event is full of good brands and quality potential. The Texas Tech vs. Creighton matchup stands out as a particularly high-stakes opening-round game.

2. Continental Tire Main Event

  • Date: Nov. 18, 20
  • Lease: Vegas
  • Matchups: No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 18 Virginia, No. 8 UCLA vs. No. 23 Illinois
  • Breakdown: It’s only a four-team field, but all four are title conference title contenders with dreams of deep NCAA Tournament runs. Every combination of potential matchups is excellent, though a Baylor vs. UCLA title game pitting NBA Draft prospects Amari Bailey and Keyonte George against one another would be particularly compelling.

3. Battle 4 Atlantis

  • Date: Nov. 23-25
  • Lease: Paradise Island, Bahamas
  • Matchups: No. 5 Kansas vs. NC State, No. 24 Dayton vs. Wisconsin, USC vs. BYU, No. 11 Tennessee vs. Butler
  • Breakdown: Dayton handed Kansas one of its six losses last November, when the Flyers knocked off the Jayhawks 74-73 at the buzzer of an epic semifinal game in the ESPN Events Invitational. The two could be in for a rematch in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Getting a peak at Butler will also be fascinating as Thad Matta navigates a tough field early in his first season back in the coaching ranks.

4. Phil Knight Invitational

  • Date: Nov. 24-27
  • Lease: Portland, OR
  • Matchups: No. 1 North Carolina vs. Portland, Iowa State vs. No. 16 Villanova, UConn vs. No. 21 Oregon, No. 20 Alabama vs. michigan state
  • Breakdown: The matchup possibilities here are tantalizing, with a potential second round game between North Carolina and Villanova standing out as one of the best. Even if that doesn’t materialize, nearly every game in this event will be intriguing. Nothing will come easy for anyone in this bracket as event host Portland is expected to be a respectable WCC squad this season.

5. Phil Knight Legacy

  • Date: Nov. 24-27
  • Lease: Portland, OR
  • Matchups: No. 7 Duke vs. Oregon State, Florida vs. Xavier, Purdue vs. West Virginia, Portland State vs. No. 2 Gonzaga
  • Breakdown: The possibility of a Duke vs. Gonzaga title game is tantalizing, but there are some good opening-round matchups as well. Florida vs. Xavier is a battle of high-profile new coaches with Todd Golden taking on Sean Miller. Purdue vs. West Virginia also pits two of the sport’s top coaches against each other as Matt Painter and Bob Huggins try to figure out revamped rosters while navigating a tough field.

6. ESPN Events Invitational

  • Date: Nov. 24-27
  • Lease: Orlando, FL
  • Matchups: Florida State vs. Siena, Ole Miss vs. Stanford, Oklahoma vs. Nebraska, Memphis vs. Seton Hall
  • Breakdown: This field isn’t stocked with obvious national title contenders, but it’s full of squads that seem destined for life on this year’s NCAA Tournament bubble. That makes this a sneakily high-stakes event that could have an outsized impact on what the season looks like for those in the field. A potential second round meeting between Florida State and Stanford would pit NBA Draft prospects Matthew Cleveland and Harrison Ingram against each other.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *