Not all want to be here
LAHAINA – As champion Syracuse and the rest of the 2013 EA Sports Maui Invitational field moves on, the teams for 2014 and 2015 are set.
There’s one large puka in the two future fields that have been announced: Kentucky is not on either list. The Wildcats have played at the Lahaina Civic Center in 1993, 1997, 2002, 2006 and 2010 – they have a standing invitation to come every four years, the minimum waiting period by NCAA rule.
“Kentucky has made a conscience decision not to go to any preseason tournaments,” Maui Invitational Tournament Chairman Dave Odom said. “They are reconsidering what they want to do and while I don’t agree with their reasoning on that, they have got a right to make decisions based on what is best for the program. I think eventually they’ll come back.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari was not in favor of playing in the 2010 tournament – a commitment made before he was hired – and told WKYT television station in May, “It’s not just Maui, it’s any tournament that we have to be off campus for three games. We are not doing it. At this point, where we are as a program, we’ve got better ways of using our financial wherewithal.”
Odom said Calipari “wants to control his schedule, play his tough games at home. . . . There’s more money to be made (there).”
In 2014, Arizona, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Purdue, BYU, San Diego State and Kansas State will join host Chaminade in the field.
The 2015 field is Indiana, Kansas, St. John’s, UCLA, UNLV, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. Kansas is the second-winningest program in NCAA history, St. John’s is seventh, UCLA is eighth and Indiana is 10th.
Odom said the teams that just finished their stays in Kaanapali hotels were pretty impressive, as well.
“I think it’s high parity – teams are a lot alike,” Odom said. “You’ve got some high quality basketball being played almost every single game. I think it’s been outstanding, I really do, and I don’t know how we can top that, I really don’t.”
Third-place Dayton was 17 seconds away from a second win over an Associated Press Top 25 team here when the Flyers lost to No. 18 Baylor 67-66 – a win would have put them in the final against No. 8 Syracuse. Fourth-place California, fifth-place Gonzaga and sixth-place Arkansas all left here with wins that could be NCAA tournament resume builders.
“I think you could make a case for all seven Mainland teams getting into the Division I NCAA tournament, for sure,” Odom said. “And I think Chaminade is going to make the Division II (tournament), they are a very good team. I don’t think it will happen for all the Mainland teams because there are always bumps along the road, but I will be very, very surprised if we don’t have at least five.”
One thing is certain, the shots were falling like never before in the three-day tournament on the west side.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim mentioned several times that small gyms are easier to shoot in, Gonzaga’s Mark Few said the rims were the softest he has ever seen for an NCAA Division I game – a thought seconded by tournament high scorer Kevin Pangos, who had 79 points while shooting 23-for-39 (59 percent) for the Zags.
The field shot a collective 47.2 percent (665-for-1,406), despite Minnesota’s 42.3 percent and Chaminade’s 40.6.
Fifth-place finisher Gonzaga, ranked 11th, led the way with an astounding 58.3 shooting percentage, while Baylor shot 51.6 percent.
“I think you’ve got good shooters,” Odom said. “The coaches are doing a good job of getting the good shooters open. As long as you’ve got the right people taking the right shots, you are going to shoot a pretty high percentage.”
Some worried that new offensive-friendly rules would slow down games with more fouls called for blocks and handchecks, a problem that did not appear to develop at the tournament.
“You won’t know until January when you get into conference play exactly how it’s going to go,” Odom said. “I’m more of a moderate kind of guy, I don’t want to go either way. I don’t want to have an absolute onslaught of physicality in the lane and everything. At the same time, I don’t want to take away the ability of the defense to guard super players.
“I don’t want NBA-like rules where you’ve got LeBron (James) who can’t be touched or Michael Jordan who can’t be guarded. Those teams that are trying to build their team, they have got to be allowed to guard the best players. If you don’t, you are going to have the best teams being the best each and every year – I don’t want that.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org