The college basketball season doesn't begin in earnest for three more months, but it's never too early to start getting excited about its return. One day after ESPN released the schedule to its Tip-Off Marathon comes the announcement of a bevy of early season tournaments featuring some of the best programs in the country. You can start planning your vacation days accordingly.
UConn, Kansas, North Carolina and Michigan State are just a few of the teams that will be in action in late November. These tournaments offer some of the best college hoops action you'll see before the conference season kicks off.
Players to watch: Arizona's Stanley Johnson and San Diego State's Winston Shepard
Arizona projects as one of the best teams in the country, and a matchup with Missouri in Hawaii will be the Wildcats' first true test. Freshman wing Stanley Johnson is expected to carry the scoring, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski reinforce last season's No. 1 defense, according to KenPom.
There's plenty more to watch here. Kansas State's Marcus Foster is on a mission after an impressive freshman season few saw coming. Purdue's A.J. Hammons is one of the top 7-footers in the college game. San Diego State has the tall order of replacing guard Xavier Thames, but the Aztecs have a pair of talented wings with Dwayne Polee and Winston Shepard to pick up the scoring burden.
Bracket: Duke will play Michigan State and Kentucky will play Kansas at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Nov. 18.
Players to watch: Kentucky's Karl Towns, Duke's Jahlil Okafor, Kansas' Cliff Alexander
Last season's Champions Classic in Chicago brought out scouts from every NBA team with top freshman Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle all in action. The field this year continues the trend. Kansas' Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, Duke's Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow and Kentucky's Karl Towns each could project as one-and-done picks in the 2015 NBA Draft, and the Champions Classic will bring them to the same gym once again.
Duke could be even better without Parker and fellow first-rounder Rodney Hood now that they have legitimate size inside with Okafor, who could be the best low-post scoring big man to enter the college game in years. Kansas and Kentucky have reloaded like only they can, each adding multiple McDonald's All-Americans to an already talented core. This might be a rebuilding year for the Spartans, but somehow Tom Izzo always finds a way to compete.
The Convention should be popping once again.
Jimmy V Classic
Bracket: Villanova will play Illinois and Indiana will play Louisville at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Dec. 9
Players to watch: Louisville's Montrezl Harrell and Villanova's Darrun Hilliard
Your first real chance to see Montrezl Harrell obliterate backboards comes in New York City when Rick Pitino's team faces an Indiana squad looking to rebound from a down year last season. The Cardinals lost Russ Smith, but sophomore guard Terry Rozier has been drawing rave reviews this summer. As if it was ever any question, Louisville should be loaded once again.
Villanova returns a lot of talent, as well. Darrun Hilliard, Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston make up the best trio in the Big East, if not one of the best in the country. Illinois will be counting on steps forward from sophomores Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn if the Illini are going to make the tournament.
Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off
Bracket: Florida State, UMass, Providence and Notre Dame will compete at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut on Nov. 22-23.
Players to watch: Providence's Kris Dunn and Notre Dame's Jerian Grant
UMass' Chaz Williams and Providence scoring dynamo Bryce Cotton will be missed, but there's still plenty of talent here to go around. Kris Dunn, a former top 25 recruit, is primed for a big sophomore season after a shoulder injury as a freshman. Notre Dame's Grant was reinstated to school after being suspended last year for an academic infraction. For the Minutemen, Derrick Gordon will be expected to carry the offense.
Battle 4 Atlantis
Bracket: Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, UCLA, Georgetown, UAB and Butler will be competing at Imperial Arena in the Bahamas from Nov. 26-28.
Players to watch: UNC's Brice Johnson and Oklahoma's Buddy Hield
The Badgers are fresh off a run to the Final Four and return their two best players in center Frank Kaminsky and wing Sam Dekker. They'll have to replace Ben Brust in the backcourt, but Bo Ryan rarely seems to be at a loss for competent guards. Wisconsin has to be considered the favorite simply because of what UCLA and Florida lost this offseason. The Gators graduated four key seniors from a team that was the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, while UCLA lost three first-round picks to the NBA.
The Tar Heels could be a sleeper here. Marcus Paige is the best pure point guard in the country, and he'll have support from Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks inside. UNC is also welcoming three McDonald's All-Americans to an already talented roster.
Bracket: Kansas, Michigan State, Marquette, Rider, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Santa Clara, Georgia Tech will be competing at the HP Field House in Orlando, Florida from Nov. 27, 28 and 30.
Players to watch: Kansas' Cliff Alexander and Michigan State's Branden Dawson
Kansas and Michigan State are two of college basketball's best programs, but they enter the season on different sides of the equation. The Jayhawks have reloaded once again after losing Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid to the NBA draft. There's a chance they could be even better this year. Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre are the new freshman stars, Devonte Graham offers a possible upgrade at point guard and Perry Ellis returns to provide veteran leadership.
Tom Izzo's team might not be as confident. Izzo recently booted forward Kenny Kaminski, which will only make things harder on a squad that already lost Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling. Dawson will be the senior star as a versatile 6'6 wing with an inside-out game. With so many question marks, can Izzo find a way to take his team deep in March once again?
Puerto Rico Tip-off
Bracket: Connecticut, West Virginia, Dayton, Texas A&M, Boston College, George Mason, New Mexico, College of Charleston will be competing in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Nov. 20, 21, 23.
Players to watch: UConn's Rodney Purvis and West Virginia's Juwan Staten
The Puerto Rico Tip-Off pits the defending national champions in the same tournament as last season's biggest Cinderella. Shabazz Napier is off to the NBA from UConn, but Kevin Ollie still has a skilled and versatile roster. The biggest thing to watch for with the Huskies will be how Ryan Boatright and N.C. State transfer Rodney Purvis coexist. Each guard can explode for points in bunches but prefers the ball in his own hands.
Archie Miller's Dayton squad will be one to watch after an impressive run to the Elite Eight in the tournament. Jordan Sibert and Dyshawn Pierre are more than talented enough to make up for the loss of Devin Oliver.
MGM Grand Showcase
Bracket: Utah, UNLV, Oklahoma, Washington will be competing at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Dec. 20.
Players to watch: Utah's Delon Wright and UNLV's Rashad Vaughn
Vaughn has a chance to be the best freshman wing in the country as a 6'6 shooter with a complete all-around game. He chose the Runnin' Rebels over Kentucky and Kansas and should be the go-to scorer on a team that lost Roscoe Smith and Khem Birch.
Utah really has a chance to ascend in the Pac-12 this year. It all starts with Wright, the sophomore brother of Dorell Wright, who impressed mightily last season as a freshman.
MGM Grand Main Event
Bracket: UW-Milwaukee, Oral Roberts, Louisiana-Lafayette and a fourth team yet to be announced will compete in the middleweight bracket. Auburn, Oregon State, Tulsa and Oklahoma State make up the heavyweight bracket. The event takes place on Nov. 24 and 26 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas
Players to watch: Louisiana-Lafayette's Shawn Long and Oklahoma State's Anthony Hickey
All eyes are on Bruce Pearl as he returns to college basketball in the SEC after an unceremonious exit from Tennessee. Pearl's first season is likely to be a slow rebuild, but the coach has proven he knows who to build a sustainable winner. This is the first step.
Hickey, a transfer from LSU, will be a key player for an Oklahoma State team that lost Marcus Smart and Markel Brown. Long, a 6'9 power forward for the Ragin' Cajuns, might be the best NBA prospect in the country no one has heard of.
Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Bracket: Colorado, DePaul, George Washington, Hawaii, Loyola Marymount, Nebraska, Ohio and Wichita State will be competing at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu on Dec. 22, 23, and 25.
Favorites: Wichita State
Players to watch: Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker of Wichita State.
What more can you say about the job Gregg Marshall has done with the Shockers? An unlucky draw in the tournament ruined an undefeated regular season and the potential for a second straight Final Four berth, but what Wichita State accomplished shouldn't be forgotten. Cleanthony Early is gone, but conference Player of the Year VanVleet and shooting guard Baker are the foundation for what should be another great season.
Bracket: Washington, Princeton, San Diego, Western Michigan, UTEP, Long Beach State, San Jose State and Xavier will compete in Anaheim, California, on Nov. 27, 28 and 30.
Players to watch: Washington's Nigel Williams-Goss and UTEP's Julian Washington
Tim Floyd has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament at UTEP, but this could finally be the year the Miners break through. UTEP went 23-11 last season and will be the favorites in Conference USA with leading scorer Washington and conference Freshman of the Year Vince Hunter coming back.