2012 Maui Invitational Preview

Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE

The highest-profile early season college basketball tournament is back as eight teams battle it out in the 2012 Maui Invitational.

Date: Nov. 19-21

Location: Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Hawaii

Quarterfinals:

Game 1: Butler vs. Marquette, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 2: Mississippi State vs. North Carolina, 6:00 p.m., ESPN2
Game 3: Texas vs. Chaminade, 9:30 p.m., ESPNU
Game 4: USC vs. Illinois, 12:00 a.m. (11/20), ESPN2

The Favorite: North Carolina

The fact that it's a bit of a down year for the Maui Invitational is best reflected by the fact that No. 9 North Carolina is the only ranked team in the field. James Michael McAdoohas begun the expected transition from bench player to All-American, and the Tar Heels have not been challenged through three games.

The Challenger: Texas

The Longhorns are still awaiting word on the eligibility of point guard Myck Kabongo, who was allowed to travel with the team to the island. Assuming Kabongo isn't granted permission to suit up, Texas will continue to start three freshmen. One of those greenies is Kabongo's replacement, Javan Felix, who hasn't shot the ball well and has committed 11 turnovers in UT's first two games.

The Darkhorse: Illinois

Marquette is the obvious choice here, but let's go with the Illini just because they have the offensive firepower to potentially hang with Carolina. Brandon Paul is one of the more underrated guards in the country, and is averaging just under 20.0 ppg through three games.

Best Quarterfinal Matchup: Butler vs. Marquette

The Bulldogs enter the tournament feeling a little bit wounded after taking a beating at the hands of Xavier last week. Marquette, meanwhile, was supposed to have already been battle tested thanks to a Carrier Classic showdown with Ohio State, but the game was canceled.

Predicted Order of Finish:

8. Chaminade
7. Mississippi State
6. Butler
5. USC
4. Texas
3. Marquette
2. Illinois
1. North Carolina

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