Maui Invitational and Battle 4 Atlantis offer Thanksgiving-week tests for AP Top 25 teams
Holiday hoops season has arrived.
The week’s AP Top 25 schedule is filled with Thanksgiving-week tournaments that have long been staples of the college basketball schedule as well as made-for-TV pairings.
The headliner is a loaded field at the Maui Invitational, which began play Monday with five of the top 11 teams. There’s also the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, as well as other events in Florida, California, Missouri and even Mexico.
They all create the potential of marquee matchups as well as the chance for teams to sort through what they do well compared to what they need to improve — the latter of which being of particular importance in a time of rapid roster overhauls through the transfer portal.
That was on the mind of North Carolina coach Hubert Davis before his 14th-ranked Tar Heels play in Atlantis, mentioning a daily message his retired Hall of Fame predecessor Roy Williams shared with a previous team: “Rome wasn’t built in a day but it was worked on every day.”
“This year’s team has new parts, and every day we want to take a step forward of building that team and getting closer to that finished product,” Davis said last week.
That applies broadly, too.
The Maui field features No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Purdue, No. 4 Marquette, No. 7 Tennessee and No. 11 Gonzaga. That tournament, relocated to Honolulu due to wildfires that devastated its longtime home of Lahaina, runs through Wednesday.
The Boilermakers and Volunteers won Monday to set up a Tuesday semifinal matchup, while the Zags fell into the consolation bracket after falling to Purdue.
The Jayhawks and Golden Eagles also won Monday night and will meet in the other semifinal.
BATTLE 4 ATLANTIS
The Tar Heels, who climbed six spots in Monday’s new poll, are the highest-ranked team taking the court Wednesday for the eight-team tournament in Paradise Island, Bahamas. They’ll open against Northern Iowa in the first game, with the tournament running through Friday.
The field also includes No. 20 Arkansas, which comes in off a home loss to UNC Greensboro that dropped the Razorbacks six spots Monday. Arkansas opens play there against Stanford.
The field also includes Villanova, which fell out of the poll Monday; and Memphis, which was the leading vote-getter among unranked teams. The Tigers open against Michigan and a good showing at the Atlantis resort could propel them into net week’s ranking.
WILDCATS AND SPARTANS
Third-ranked Arizona has already earned a marquee win this season at Duke. The Wildcats have another such matchup on the schedule on Thanksgiving Day against No. 21 Michigan State. That game takes place in Palm Desert, California, for the Acrisure Classic.
MORE INTERNATIONAL PLAY
No. 22 James Madison is also playing an offshore event, facing Southern Illinois on Tuesday in the Cancun Challenge in Mexico. The winner of that matchup faces the New Mexico State-Fresno State winner on Wednesday for the title.
SUNSHINE STATE BATTLES
Multiple events are taking place in Florida this week with ranked teams, including No. 18 Colorado in the Sunshine Slam in Daytona Beach; and No. 24 Virginia in the Fort Myers Tip-Off.
The ESPN Events Invitational features No. 12 Texas A&M and No. 19 Florida Atlantic as the headliners in Kissimmee. They could meet in the semifinals of an event that opens Thursday and runs through Sunday.
There’s also No. 17 Alabama playing Ohio State on Friday in its Emerald Coast Classic opener in Niceville.
Eighth-ranked Creighton faces Loyola Chicago on Wednesday to open the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Missouri. No. 13 Baylor faces Oregon State on Wednesday in the NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn, while No. 23 USC meets Seton Hall on Thursday in the first-year Rady Children’s Invitational near San Diego.
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