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Onions! Ranking the early season tournaments, and Jabari Parker

There are 19 tournaments for us to feast on. So let's rank them and make fun of their names! And also talk about Jabari Parker.

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The highlight of November on the college hoops schedule is, well, the beginning of the college hoops schedule. But after that it's early season tournament time, and we like that too.

It's a great premise: Thanksgiving Week and, um, the one before it, let's take virtually every team in the country and ship them off to some random part of the United States or a nearby island and make them play large amounts of basketball. Nobody cares who wins the random trophies, and the stands are universally empty. But on account of being on ESPN (almost all of them are on ESPN) and the fact that people have to pay a lot to go to these random places, they're somehow profitable, and that's great, because it means hoops on TV all day every day through the holiday. And for that, we're thankful.

By our count, there are 19 such tournaments. YOU'RE DAMN RIGHT WE'RE GOING TO RANK 'EM

Note: we're only talking about the actual tournament part of these tournaments, and not the weird pre-tournament things held on campus sites that don't actually have anything to do with the tournament.

I also have a definite preference towards the three-day, 8-team variety of tournament over the two-day, four-team variety of tournament, because I am a damn junkie. So keep that in mind. You can differentiate them by whether it says "notable teams" as in "I only put the best four" or just "teams" as in "these are the four you'll get and you'll like them."

19. Gulf Coast Showcase (Nov. 25-27, Estero, Florida)

Noteworthy teams: San Diego, Louisiana Tech, St. Bonaventure's, Wagner

TV: Nah

I get that it's for mid-majors, but these still aren't very good mid-majors. Just one Kenpom top 100 team. And how is it a showcase if it's not on TV?

18. Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 28-29, Las Vegas, Nevada)

Teams: Missouri, UCLA, Northwestern, Nevada

TV: The ESPN's

Serious, major, huge demerit for not actually having a tournament. Since Missouri and UCLA play each other in the non-conference slate already, this is just four teams playing three games in two days so that the Tigers and Bruins don't meet. Bummer, since that's the only game we could possibly find interesting.

17. Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 27-30, Anchorage, Alaska)

Noteworthy teams: Harvard, Indiana State, TCU, Green Bay

TV: CBS Sports Network

I've always imagined this is a threat in production meetings for months, maybe years in advance. There are early season basketball tournaments in every conceivable nice weather location from Hawaii to the Bahamas, and then there's one in ANCHORAGE ALASKA, whether the temperature is, per my computer as I type this, 19 degrees. Let us take a moment to mourn the loss of the Top of the World Classic, the tournament hosted by University of Alaska-Fairbanks. If you'd like to take a moment to think about why this tournament no longer exists, look at where Fairbanks, Alaska is on a map.

We live in the glory days of Harvard basketball. Even ignoring Linsanity, which actually didn't pop off at the college level. After missing the tourney for 70 years, they made it in 2012 and made a mark by upsetting New Mexico last year -- and now the team gets Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey, who were supposed to be senior stars last year before academics kept them from playing. And Indiana State is a team to watch after knocking off Notre Dame AND WE GOT A LONGFORM ABOUT THEM Y'ALL.

And this tournament gets props for including Alaska-Anchorage every year.

16. Corpus Christi Challenge (Nov. 29-30, Corpus Christi, Texas)

Teams: Virginia, SMU, Texas A&M, Missouri State

TV: CBS Sports Network

It's a basketball tournament alright! Virginia is the clear favorite here, although Larry Brown's SMU team maybe does something.

15. Barclays Center Classic (Nov. 29-30, Brooklyn, New York)

Teams: Ole Miss, Penn State, St. John's, Georgia Tech

TV: NBC Sports Network

Yes, a CLASSIC held in a building that has been open for 14 months. All these teams are somewhat evenly matched, and Marshall Henderson is involved, so perhaps a glimpse is allowed.

14. Paradise Jam (Nov. 22-25, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands)

Noteworthy teams: Providence, Maryland, Vanderbilt, La Salle

TV: CBS Sports Network

I think college hoops has some problems with the concept of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. There's a tournament in the Bahamas that claims to be in Atlantis, and there's a tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands that claims to be in Paradise. BTW, there's a definite market for a hoops-crazed jelly producer to make something called a "paradise jam," but it's a small niche.

Four solid teams highlight this, although we're waiting on La Salle after last year's Sweet 16 run was followed up by early losses to Manhattan and Penn State.

13. 2K Sports Classic (Nov. 21-22, New York)

Teams: Indiana, UConn, BC, Washington


This week really makes me question what the word "classic" means. This one's at MSG, which makes me mournful for the Big East Tournament.

Anyway, we just have the final of Indiana and UConn to go. Both teams aren't as good as you think -- the Hoosiers nearly lost to LIU-Brooklyn, and UConn's fought tooth and nail for wins against Maryland and BC. Shabazz Napier and Noah Vonleh are triple-double threats in very different ways, and both go against relative areas of weakness for their opponent, so not a bad championship game.

12. Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (Nov. 22-23, Brooklyn, New York)

Teams: Michigan State, Oklahoma, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech

TV: The ESPN's

Nice that Michigan State is involved, not as nice that they should romp through the competition. Anything else is intriguing.

11. Progressive Legends Classic (Nov. 25-26, Brooklyn, New York)

Teams: Stanford, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech, Houston

TV: The ESPN's

Stare at those words until they mean something.

This is one of three tournaments held at the Barclays Center along with the Barclays Center Classic and the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Each year, there are more events at the Barclays Center, until we are all sucked into the oculus.

Sign me up for a very well-balanced Pitt team against Stanford, if they were to meet in the championship game.

10. Cancun Challenge (Nov. 26-27, Cancun, Mexico)

Teams: Wisconsin, St. Louis, West Virginia, Old Dominion

TV: CBS Sports Network

Different from the street definition of "the Cancun Challenge," which involves a bottle of tequila, a pair of handcuffs, and a mule. I'd like to give a shoutout to the Cancun Challenge for dividing the field into two brackets, the four-team "Riviera Division" including the major conference teams and the "Mayan Division" featuring the mid-major teams, representing the way foreign cultures brutalized and vanquished the Mayans but kept their name alive for the purpose of building a spring break haven with a Señor Frogs.

Wisconsin-St. Louis is a really interesting game, especially with the way the Badgers are GETTING BUCKETS this season and the way St. Louis typically defends. Luckily, we're guaranteed to see it, as it's a first-rounder in this four-team pool. The rest is very meh.

9. CBE Classic (Nov. 24-26, Kansas City, Missouri)

Teams: BYU, Wichita State, Texas, DePaul

TV: The ESPN's

This should probably actually be called the "Hall of Fame Tip-Off," seeing as its in Kansas City, where the College Basketball Hall of Fame exists. "CBE" stands for "College Basketball Experience," which is the name of a wing of that hall located at the arena where these games are played.

If "Wichita State-BYU" doesn't get you hoops-giddy, you're not me, I guess. The Shockers have blown the doors off of everybody they've played since last year's Final Four run, and like UMass, we've already written about how we love BYU going all shooty-score-y up-tempo.

8. Old Spice Classic (Nov. 28-Dec. 1, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, also known as Disneyworld)

Notable teams: Oklahoma State, Memphis, Butler, LSU

TV: The ESPN's

You can buy this.


This tourney kinda loses some of its mystique after Oklahoma State pantsed Memphis violently in their already scheduled matchup. The Pokes and Tigers are clearly the two studs of this field, and now I don't even want to see them play.

7. Charleston Classic (Nov. 21-24, Charleston, SC)

Notable teams: New Mexico, UMass, Clemson, Nebraska

TV: The ESPN's

We already had a game-of-the-early-year candidate with the Lobos' double-OT win featuring game-tying threes a) on a running 35-footer by Kendall Williams and b) by 7-foot, 245-pounder Alex Kirk, which seem equally improbable. And we've talked about my passion for UMass.

Northwestern has won this tournament before, which kind of invalidates it for me.

6. Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-24, San Juan, PR)

Notable teams: Michigan, VCU, Florida State, Georgetown

TV: The ESPN's

How many tracks are on the ESPN producer's copy of "Now That's What I Call Vaguely Hispanic Sounding Bumper Music!"? Watch to find out!

The field here is pretty interesting, and it's already provided some pretty solid basketball. Michigan-VCU was supposed to be one of the better matchups of the non-conference season, but FSU's first-round upset of the Rams means we're getting Michigan-Florida State instead. And Georgetown fell to Northeastern due to a spectacular second half defensively by the unknown Huskies playing in the homeland of their one-time star, J.J. Barea.

The upsets make this either less intriguing or more intriguing if you want to see what Northeastern and FSU have in store.

5. Hall of Fame Tip-Off (Nov. 23-24, Uncasville, Connecticut)

Teams: Louisville, North Carolina, Richmond, Fairfield

TV: The ESPN's

The Hall of Fame Tip-off, bringing basketball to the city it was invented, Springfield, Massachusetts! Or at least 70 miles away, at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. At least stick to the same state, guys.

Louisville vs. A Quality Team is something we otherwise wouldn't be privy to until their blockbuster matchup with Kentucky in late December, so, yes, we'll take this, even if it is against a UNC team that looked very, very flawed against Belmont.

4. Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28-30, Fullerton, CA)

Notable teams: Creighton, Arizona State, Marquette, George Washington

TV: The ESPN's

I'm not sure how "Wooden Legacy" is a tournament name. Not the Wooden Legacy Tournament... just Wooden Legacy. It sounds like the name of an antique store that specializes in rocking chairs and other sylvan items that have just gone down in quality since people started adding metal to things. I'm especially unsure how John Wooden's legacy equals a tournament in a 4,000 seat gym in Fullerton at a school founded just three years before Wooden was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player.

It's nice that we have a guaranteed matchup between two legit teams in Creighton and Arizona State, but, man, why do they have to play in the first round? I guess I should be glad there's going to be a Doug McDermott vs. Jahii Carson score-off and less stingy about how it happens.

3. NIT Season Tip-off (Nov. 27-29, New York)

Teams: Duke, Arizona, Alabama, Drexel

I've always felt the winner of this should get a bid into the postseason NIT... WHETHER THEY LIKE IT OR NOT. Play your cards right.

Anyway, yes yes yes yes yes yes yes Jabari Parker vs. Aaron Gordon. Two guys not so much trapped in, but rather blessed with power forward's bodies despite intriguingly not-power-forward-y skillsets. They might not match up one-on-one, but watching them on the same court should be fascinating. Duke and Arizona should have no trouble making this happen.

2. Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30, Paradise Island, The Bahamas)

Notable teams: Kansas, Villanova, Iowa, Tennessee

TV: NBC Sports Network

A lot to parse here:

a) This event is not held in Atlantis. Atlantis is a mythical underground water kingdom. This event is at Paradise Island in the Bahamas -- wait, why isn't PARADISE JAM here -- where there is a resort called "Atlantis."

b) The winners of the tournament do not own the Atlantis Resort upon winning.

c) Is it a well known fact that Atlanteans prefer the text-y "4" instead of the accurate "for?" Were the Atlanteans big fans of abbrev-ing things? Did they call their mythical underground kingdom "ATL" or "The A" like their above-ground, real-life Southern counterparts? Did they use emojis? Did their mythical underwater sea smartphones break if you accidentally put them into the air the same way ours drop if you accidentally put them in water for .8 seconds or more? 2 many questions, 2 little time.

Of course, the highlight here is MORE ANDREW WIGGINS. Villanova and Iowa are very legit teams, and Tennessee and Xavier aren't pushovers. After fending off Duke, the quest to find the chinks in the Jayhawks' armor is on, and these teams have shots.

1. Maui Invitational (Nov. 25-27, Lahaina, Hawaii)

Notable teams: Gonzaga, Baylor, Minnesota, Syracuse

TV: The ESPN's

The grand-daddy of early season college basketball tournaments. Watching coaches in floral shirts and leis going up against the Chaminade Silverswords in a seemingly poorly ventilated gym.

And as for the hoops, let's put it this way: California is the No. 30 team in Kenpom right now, which would have made them the best team in the Great Alaska Shootout or Paradise Jam. They aren't in the top four here.

Shoddily-filmed buzzer-beater of the week

We go to a game between Texas-Pan American vs. Tennessee Tech, which of course was played at the campus of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who decided to have a tournament for all of the hyphens:

That's Shaq Boga of the Broncs -- that's UTPA, not Tech -- and *somebody*, possibly Boga, yelling BALLGAME as he awkwardly banks in a 35-footer.

Rodger Bothers a Coach

(On hiatus this week, but will definitely be happening every week.)


Saturday I went to a dog adoption event about 15 blocks from my house. The premise is, about 15-20 people stand on the street with dogs you can adopt and try to get you to pet them, something which I'm pretty okay with obliging regardless of whether I'm interested in adopting one.

It turns out I am interested in adopting one, which requires a little bit more involvement. I play around with the ones I was interested in and ask the current person fostering the dog about what it's like, and at some juncture, they ask if you want to take the dog for a walk around the block.

Walking a few dogs and deciding which one you would most like to own is a weird task. Because all three of them are adorable and all three of them, you know, act like dogs. But you have to find the distinctions between each of them within their dogness and think about what that could mean for your potential relationship with that dog. You shouldn't have to make that decision in a three-minute trot.

But one clearly stood out to me: it's the same dude we talked about last time. About 15 seconds into our walk, he sneaks up behind a guy ahead of us and attempts to snag a bag of Cheetos out of a guy's hand. He proceeds to bark emphatically at some other dogs approaching and I feel a need to shorten his leash super-tight when we approach a row of motorcycles, fearing a puppy-sparked biker gang war. Would his irascibility rag on me after a while? I don't know. All I know is if I wasn't worried being judged by other humans, I'd be a Cheeto-snatcher, and that's my dude.

It's sorta the same way people are currently observing the only three college basketball players anybody seems to care about: Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins, and Jabari Parker. We've gone a few games into their careers, and much as the new dogs are all adorable dogs, the new superstars are all clearly superstars, at least at this level. Yet people are looking into the intricacies of their first few games, some of them against chaff opponents, and trying to make grand proclamations about their futures.

That's kinda dumb. Teams don't have to decide who the first NBA pick is in the first week of the season. Teams don't have to decide until well after the season, after they've worked out the players and thought about their franchises and stuff. We should be spending our time appreciating the different factors each guy brings to the table and thinking about potential later.

That said, like with the dogs, our quick walk around the block has netted me a quick favorite: I can't stop watching Jabari Parker. I am by no means a Duke fan, but I've been captivated by the crazy skill set he's already displayed. He's 6'8. He can drill threes, go coast-to-coast with a live dribble, finish nifty rim-runs, and of course, slam it home. I don't know how consistent he'll be at any of those things, or whether the talent the other dudes bring to the table might make them better players in the long run, as some seem to think.

What I know is that for now, I don't care about those things. I'll keep watching this guy take over games with his insane versatility, and maybe win a few less of them than Kentucky and Kansas teams that seem to have more 1-5 firepower. Because the brief glimpse we've gotten has been pretty fun.

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