The Maui Classic has always been one of the must-see events of the early part of the college basketball season. You get to see coaches in Hawaiian shirts (picture Phil Martelli), beautiful bump shots of the beaches and some good hoops action.
This year's Invitational is no different. The No. 1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels headline the event which begins today. But they aren't the only story to watch as six of the eight teams in Maui were in the NCAA Tournament last year:
North Carolina: The top ranked team is the favorite to win this thing but the Heels are coming in on shaky ground. Marcus Ginyard is still out as is Tyler Zeller who is done for the year with a broken wrist. The story will be Tyler Hansbrough's shin. He played Friday against UCSB but will see his minutes carefully monitored this week. If he does well, so will the Heels.
Notre Dame: Doesn't everyone want to see a matchup of Hansbrough and Luke Harangody? It could happen if the Irish get by the Texas Longhorns. The key to winning the Maui will be Mike Brey's coaching against some of the biggest names in the nation.Texas: Everyone talks about what UNC brought back this year but Texas returns nine of its top 10 scorers from last year. Okay, the one they lost was D.J. Augustin but the cupboard isn't bare. The Horns are the obvious darkhorse in this tournament as A.J. Abrams should give fits to Kyle McAlarney or Wayne Ellington. Boy are there some outstanding guards in this thing!
Alabama: The Tide aren't that solid of a team and will ride the coattails of Ronald Steele. Steele redshirted last year after double knee surgery. It will nice to see what he can do in this type of atmosphere.
Oregon: The Ducks are young but they, too, have a star. Tajuan Porter is a micro-marvel who can pop his shot off from anywhere. Forget Hansbrough-Harangody; I want to see Porter and Steele go toe-to-toe in the first round.
St. Joseph's: I think every event needs to have a guy like Phil Martelli there. He's funny, self-defacing and a darn good coach. Don't forget that the Hawks made the dance last year and are capable of pulling an upset in this tournament.
Indiana: Imagine what this dance would have been if the Hoosiers didn't go down in flames. Still, Tom Crean will expect his team to show up and playing alongside some outstanding programs in Maui will help them in the long haul. Also it is nice to send the kids that actually stuck around on a trip to Hawaii.
Chaminade: The Silverswords are the hosts who did win a game over Princeton in last season's tournament. Their win over top-ranked Virginia over 25 years ago will be talked about quite a bit as they face this year's No. 1 Tar Heels.
Stacked Field, All-Americans and Speedy Guards Highlight Maui Invitational originally appeared on NCAA Basketball FanHouse on Mon, 24 Nov 2008 13:18:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.