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Tonight's title tilt has a Maui Invitational heartbeat

April 2, 2012 - Robert Collias
The University of Kentucky and the University of Kansas — UK and KU, for short, respectively — meet for the NCAA men's basketball crown in a few hours.

The Jayhawks and Wildcats are also the last two runners-up from the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

It is pretty impressive that the Valley Isle's tournament, with tiny Division II Chaminade as the host, can boast statistics like that. It says a lot more that each of those teams did not win the MI — eventual NCAA champion Connecticut did last year, beating Kentucky in a Final Four semifinal, and Duke, which has never lost a game on Maui (15-0), beat Kansas in the final last November.

Players including Kemba Walker, Thomas Robinson, Terrance Jones, Tyshawn Taylor, Jeff Withy, and Brandon Knight have graced the Lahaina Civic Center court in the last two years before playing in the Final Four. And I'm probably missing some significant names. Wow.

If anyone is counting, tournament chairman Dave Odom and the folks at Kemper Lesnik have to get a lot of credit for having three Final Four teams, possibly two national champions, and an NIT champion (Wichita State from last season) play in their event in the same year they made their postseason noise over a two-year span. Pretty remarkable.


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