The 2013 Las Vegas Invitational welcomes in four schools that had disappointing seasons last year. UCLA and Missouri fell short of lofty preseason expectations, while Northwestern and Nevada were unable to get everything going in the right direction due to injuries and inexperience.
With two big non-conference win opportunities up for grabs in Vegas, there should be no shortage of excitement from Orleans Arena on Nov. 28 and 29.
Nov. 28: UCLA vs. Nevada (7:30 p.m. ET); Missouri vs. Northwestern (10:30 p.m.)
Nov. 29: Missouri vs. Nevada (8:30 p.m.); UCLA vs. Northwestern (11:30 p.m.)
The Favorites: UCLA and Missouri
The Bruins and Tigers will play each other in Columbia a week after the Invitational wraps up, so they won't play in Las Vegas. Andy Katz of ESPN likes both schools to leave Vegas with 2-0 records, but they need to be weary of Northwestern and new head coach Chris Collins.
Key Storyline: Steve Alford takes Westwood
Alford left New Mexico in the spring to become UCLA's next head coach after a couple of tumultuous years under Ben Howland. Alford inherits a talented-yet-thin roster, headlined by sophomores Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams.
Expectations are already high for the new head coach in Westwood, and it'll be interesting to see how much of an adjustment period there is under Alford as he looks to push the tempo and implement his new style of play. And after losing Shabazz Muhammad to the NBA and Larry Drew to graduation, there will be big shoes to fill in the starting lineup.
Possible Upset: Northwestern over UCLA
The Wildcats are deep, and the Bruins are not. For two teams that will be playing their second game in 24 hours, the ability to turn to bench players for contributions on both ends of the floor is huge. Northwestern will really have to key in on Adams and Anderson and keep them in check on the offensive end, but if they're able to do that, there's a decent possibility that they pull the early-season upset.