2013 Maui Invitational Preview

11/25/13 in NCAABB   |   EdIsaacson   |   15 respect

The 30th Anniversary of the Maui Invitational brings us one of the best groups of teams to date. All seven Division I teams are undefeated heading into the tournament, and all seven could be in the NCAA Tournament come March. The games start later today, so here is a look at the field and what to expect, minus host Chaminade:

Nov 24, 2013; Maui, HI, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks coach Mike Andersen speaks during a press conference for the Maui Invitational held at the Sheraton Resort in Lahaina. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsArkansas
Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks are off to an impressive 3 and 0 start including wins over above-average SMU and Louisiana-Lafayette squads. Athleticism drives the Arkansas offense and defense, with the Razorbacks scoring almost 90 points per game and forcing almost 20 turnovers per game. Junior forward Alandise Harris and sophomore guards Michael Qualls and Anthlon Bell are all scoring in double figures per game and shooting over 50%. Senior forward Coty Clarke is doing a lot of the necessary things – rebounding, playing tough defense and making good passes.  Highly-touted freshman Bobby Portis is still making adjustments to the college game, but should be making an impact soon enough. It will be important to see how this Razorbacks team adjusts if they get slowed down to a halfcourt game, and who emerges as the go-to scorer.

It hasn’t been very pretty, but Scott Drew’s Bears are off to a 4 and 0 start with good wins over Colorado and South Carolina. The frontcourt duo of Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin haven’t played as well as the team will need them to, especially being able to finish around the basket. Jefferson is doing a great job on the defensive boards though, but Baylor will need the 7’1 Austin to contribute more there. Brady Heslip has emerged as the Bears’ early-season star, hitting 14 of 27 3-pointers, and hopefully he will continue to make teams pay for packing in around the basket. JUCO transfer point guard Kenny Cherry has looked good so far as Pierre Jackson’s replacement, though he needs to become a more consistent perimeter shooter. The Bears have some depth this year with sophomores Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers, as well as Denver transfer Royce O’Neale. There isn’t as much depth in the backcourt, so the Bears may need freshman Ish Wainwright to step up and earn bigger minutes sooner rather than later.

Mike Montgomery’s Bears are another undefeated team making their way to Hawaii. Senior point guard Justin Cobbs has been impressive early on, doing a great job finding open teammates and getting the team into the offense quickly. Freshman Jabari Bird has shown a versatile offensive game, though his shot selection will need to improve as the season goes on.  Sophomore Tyrone Wallace is a nice compliment to Cobbs and Bird in the backcourt and may be the Bears’ best perimeter defender. The frontcourt of Richard Solomon and David Kravish has been dominant on the boards early on, averaging almost 20 per game between the two of them. Montgomery hasn’t had to rely on his bench much yet, but he will need to find who is going to be a contributor soon.

Archie Miller’s Flyers are coming of their most impressive win this season over former coach Brian Gregory’s Georgia Tech squad. The offensive load has been extremely balanced so far with five players averaging between 10.8 and 13.8 points per game. Junior guard Jordan Sibert and sophomore guard Khari Price have been very good from the perimeter so far, hitting a combined 15 of 33 from three-point range. Senior Vee Sanford and freshman Scoochie Smith round out the backcourt, which has also been very good at pressuring the perimeter. Forwards Dyshawn Pierre and Devin Oliver have both used their athleticism well to attack the basket, and have also been the Flyers’ best rebounders. It’s an undersized team, but Miller will look to have his team pressure the ball to prevent teams from getting easy chances around the basket. 
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