Your guide to 13 early-season college basketball tournaments


Thirteen events comprising 84 teams across 21 conferences were revealed on Thursday, as ESPN announced its early-season tournament schedule for the 2019-20 season. Below is your comprehensive (yet handy!) guide to what and who you’ll be seeing across all 13 events, in games that will appear on ESPN networks. (Click here for complete network and tip time information.)

Jump to an event: Charleston Classic | Myrtle Beach Invitational | Empire Classic | Air Force Reserve Tip-Off | MGM Resorts Main Event | Maui Invitational | Legends Classic | Hall of Fame Classic | Battle 4 Atlantis | NIT Season Tip-Off | Orlando Invitational | Wooden Legacy | Diamond Head Classic


Charleston Classic

Dates: Nov. 21, 22 & 24, 2019
Site: TD Arena / Charleston, SC

First-round matchups:

Missouri State vs. Miami
Florida vs. Saint Joseph’s
Xavier vs. Towson
Buffalo vs. Connecticut

Team to beat: Florida. With Kerry Blackshear Jr. now in the fold, Florida is a legitimate national title contender — and we’ll also get an early look at the impact of Gators five-star freshman Scottie Lewis.

Sleeper team: Miami. The Hurricanes should take a step forward next season, with Chris Lykes running the show and the addition of four-star guards Harlond Beverly and Isaiah Wong.

Player to watch: Xavier brings back four starters from a team that finished strong — but Travis Steele will need an immediate impact from Ohio graduate transfer Jason Carter up front.

Something for the college hoops junkies: What’s next at Buffalo? The Bulls have been to the NCAA tournament four times in the last six seasons and lost coaches Bobby Hurley (Arizona State) and Nate Oats (Alabama) along the way. Can Jim Whitesell continue the winning ways? — Jeff Borzello


Myrtle Beach Invitational

Dates: Nov. 21, 22 & 24, 2019
Site: HTC Center / Conway, SC

First-round matchups:

Villanova vs. Middle Tennessee
Mississippi State vs. Tulane
Ohio vs. Baylor
Utah vs. Coastal Carolina

Team to beat: Villanova. Since 2014, Jay Wright has averaged nearly 32 wins a year, and the upcoming season should help maintain that average with three returning starters and an elite recruiting class led by five-star prospects Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Bryan Antoine.

Sleeper team: Baylor. Scott Drew hasn’t received enough credit for fighting through injuries last season to win 20 games. This year, he has another winning group with Tristan Clark, who missed the bulk of the season with knee injury, and two other double-figure scorers returning.

Player to watch: Antoine is a fabulous, 6-foot-5 guard who could be in next in line to go pro after a stint with Wright, but he’s currently in rehab to address a shoulder injury he suffered earlier this year that could impact the start of his freshman season.

Something for the college hoops junkies: We don’t talk about Villanova the way we talk about Duke, Kentucky and Kansas, but you could make the case that the Wildcats are the true kings of college basketball right now and they’re always fun to watch. — Myron Medcalf


Empire Classic

Dates: Nov. 21 & 22, 2019
Site: Madison Square Garden / New York, NY

First-round matchups:

Texas vs. Georgetown
Duke vs. Cal

Team to beat: Duke. Mike Krzyzewski tapped the Minnesota pipeline again with Matthew Hurt (Rochester, Minnesota) joining sophomore Tre Jones (Apple Valley, Minnesota) on a roster that seems equipped to win another championship in the post-Zion Williamson era of Duke basketball.

Sleeper team: Georgetown. Patrick Ewing won 19 games in his second season as the leader of his alma mater and with the incoming pieces and another year for Mac McClung, Georgetown could start a possible NCAA tournament-worthy campaign with a shocker.

Player to watch: Duke big man Vernon Carey Jr. is a five-star talent who can dominate the action on the floor with his big body and fluid game.

Something for the college hoops junkies: Seeing Ewing as a coach at Madison Square Garden, possibly in a finale against Duke, is worth the price of admission. — Myron Medcalf


Air Force Reserve Tip-Off

Dates: Nov. 23 & 24, 2019
Site: Mohegan Sun Arena / Uncasville, CT

First-round matchups:

Virginia vs. Massachusetts
Arizona State vs. St. John’s

Team to beat: Virginia. Despite losing Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter to the NBA draft, the Cavaliers are still going to be nationally relevant and will enter as the favorite.

Sleeper team: Arizona State will be favored over St. John’s in a First Four rematch, but the Red Storm have one of the better scoring duos in the Big East in Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa.

Player to watch: UMass had a massive recruiting coup when it landed ESPN 100 center Tre Mitchell in the spring. Mitchell will have an early chance to make an impression.

Something for the college hoops junkies: An upset would have to happen in the first round for it to happen, but a tempo battle between new St. John’s leader Mike Anderson and Virginia’s Tony Bennett would be fascinating. — Jeff Borzello


MGM Resorts Main Event

Dates: Nov. 24 & 26, 2019
Site: T-Mobile Arena / Las Vegas, NV

First-round matchups:

TCU vs. Clemson
Colorado vs. Wyoming

Team to beat: Colorado. McKinley Wright (13.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.8 APG) is back along with the bulk of a Buffaloes roster that finished 12-4 in February and March last season and had a top-40 mark in defensive efficiency per KenPom.

Sleeper team: TCU. Jamie Dixon lost key players from last year’s 23-win team but returnee Desmond Bane will join top-100 player P.J. Fuller on a squad that will fight to avoid the bottom of the Big 12.

Player to watch: Wright didn’t get the proper buzz last year after connecting on 39% of his 3-pointers and 55% of his shots inside the arc during Pac-12 play.

Something for the college hoops junkies: The Jumbotron at T-Mobile Arena is so cool that if you’re in the building, you should spend a half or two just using it to track the action on the floor. — Myron Medcalf


Maui Jim Maui Invitational

Dates: Nov. 25, 26 & 27, 2019
Site: Lahaina Civic Center / Lahaina, HI

First-round matchups:

Dayton vs. Georgia
Michigan State vs. Virginia Tech
Kansas vs. Chaminade
UCLA vs. BYU

Team to beat: Michigan State is going to be preseason No. 1 in a number of rankings, and the Spartans are experienced, versatile and have Wooden Award favorite Cassius Winston.

Sleeper team: It was overlooked at the time, but when Yoeli Childs announced he was returning to BYU on NBA draft deadline day, it put the Cougars in position to be a factor. TJ Haws and Jake Toolson can fill it up on the wings.

Player to watch: All eyes will be on Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, the top-five recruit who spurned Kentucky to stay home and play for the Bulldogs.

Something for the college hoops junkies: Michigan State and Kansas are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the latest Way-Too-Early Updated Preseason Top 25 rankings — and could face off in the title game. — Jeff Borzello


Legends Classic

Dates: Nov. 25 & 26, 2019
Site: Barclays Center / Brooklyn, NY

First-round matchups:

Wisconsin vs. Richmond
Auburn vs. New Mexico

Team to beat: Bruce Pearl will not have the nucleus that helped Auburn reach last year’s Final Four, but if Samir Doughty can stabilize the backcourt and Austin Wiley can finally reach his potential, the Tigers could win here and, down the line, compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Sleeper team: It’s just difficult to know what Wisconsin will be without Ethan Happ, but D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison will try to make this a scrappy Badgers team that exceeds expectations.

Player to watch: New Mexico’s Vance Jackson is a tough big man who could make a national statement in Brooklyn.

Something for the college hoops junkies: Davison became one of the most polarizing players in the game with a few questionable (OK fine, dirty) plays last year, but he’s not going to change now that he’s the leader of this team in his junior season and will be worth monitoring. — Myron Medcalf


Hall of Fame Classic Powered by ShotTracker

Dates: Nov. 25 & 26, 2019
Site: Sprint Center / Kansas City, MO

First-round matchups:

Butler vs. Missouri
Oklahoma vs. Stanford

Team to beat: Oklahoma loses several key players off last season’s NCAA tournament group, but the return of Kristian Doolittle and Brady Manek should keep the Sooners in the tourney conversation.

Sleeper team: Missouri was better last season than its 5-13 SEC record indicated, and the Tigers bring back seven of their top nine scorers and add potential impact newcomers Dru Smith and Tray Jackson.

Player to watch: Butler is going to be a veteran-led team, including all-league guard Kamar Baldwin, but the Bulldogs’ season could come down to how Valparaiso graduate transfer Derrik Smits adapts to high-major hoops.

Something for the college hoops junkies: A title game between Missouri and Oklahoma in Kansas City would bring back some fun Big 12 memories — something we haven’t seen since Missouri left for the SEC. — Jeff Borzello


Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis

Dates: Nov. 27, 28 & 29, 2019
Site: Imperial Arena / Paradise Island, Bahamas

First-round matchups:

Michigan vs. Iowa State
North Carolina vs. Alabama
Gonzaga vs. Southern Miss
Seton Hall vs. Oregon

Team to beat: This is tough but this tournament is early, so look for Mark Few’s veterans like Killian Tillie and grad transfer Admon Gilder to be ready to go and win this tournament as Roy Williams is still figuring out his young crew.

Sleeper team: I don’t think people know how good Seton Hall might be this season with the return of Myles Powell, but the buzz might begin if the Pirates emerge as the victors in the Bahamas.

Player to watch: Cole Anthony, the top incoming guard in the country, could be the Zion Williamson of the 2019-20 season.

Something for the college hoops junkies: This stacked tournament is one of those events where you watch the first game, the last game and every game in between. — Myron Medcalf


NIT Season Tip-Off

Dates: Nov. 27 & 29, 2019
Site: Barclays Center / Brooklyn, NY

First-round matchups (Brooklyn):

Ole Miss vs. Penn State
Oklahoma State vs. Syracuse

Dates: Nov. 25 & 26, 2019
Site: HP Field House / Orlando, FL

First-round matchups (Orlando):

Yale vs. Western Michigan
Seattle vs. Bucknell

Team to beat: Ole Miss. Breein Tyree (17.9 PPG, 38% from the 3-point line) and Devontae Shuler (10.3 PPG), who helped Kermit Davis win 20 games in his first season, return for the 2019-20 campaign.

Sleeper team: Syracuse. Jim Boeheim has a collection of new faces on his roster but who really wants to shoot against that zone in late November?

Player to watch: Buddy Boeheim had some eye-opening performances in the ACC tournament, and has a chance to impress in Brooklyn.

Something for the college hoops junkies: This tournament is about three weeks into the 2019-20 season, which means Boeheim’s frustration with officiating will already be at Level 8 on a scale of 1-10. We’re sure he’ll let the referees at this event know how he feels. — Myron Medcalf


Orlando Invitational

Dates: Nov. 28, 29 & Dec. 1, 2019
Site: HP Field House / Orlando, FL

First-round matchups:

Maryland vs. Temple
Texas A&M vs. Harvard
USC vs. Fairfield
Davidson vs. Marquette

Team to beat: Maryland enters the season as a top-10 team nationally, with a dynamic inside-outside duo in Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith. The Terrapins have plenty of talent, and if they can survive this loaded field, they might be able to live up to expectations.

Sleeper team: Davidson has one of the more underrated scoring duos in the country in Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson, and won’t shy away from trying to outgun Markus Howard and Marquette.

Player to watch: Harvard brings back everyone from last season, but the key player could be Seth Towns, who averaged 16.0 points in 2017-18 but missed last season with a knee injury.

Something for the college hoops junkies: Two words: Markus Howard. Any game featuring arguably the nation’s best scorer is worth watching. — Jeff Borzello


Wooden Legacy

Dates: Nov. 28, 29 & Dec. 1, 2019
Site: Anaheim Arena / Anaheim, CA

First-round matchups:

Providence vs. Long Beach State
Wake Forest vs. College of Charleston
UCF vs. Penn
Pepperdine vs. Arizona

Team to beat: Following a rare season that ended without an NCAA tournament appearance, Arizona hit the reset button with five-star perimeter stars Nico Mannion, the projected No. 7 pick in next summer’s NBA draft via ESPN.com, and Josh Green, the projected No. 15 pick in the 2020 draft, both of whom should make the Wildcats a national contender again.

Sleeper team: Providence. Ed Cooley signed an extension after he got involved with the Michigan opening and he’ll lead a team that returns three starters, including Alpha Diallo, who averaged 16.0 PPG in 2018-19.

Player to watch: Arizona has a rich history of producing excellent point guards, and folks who’ve tracked his prep career believe Mannion is the next superstar to man that position for the Wildcats.

Something for the college hoops junkies: Well, any event in Anaheim means you can watch great basketball and then hop on the shuttles around town and finish the day with the family at Disneyland. — Myron Medcalf


Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

Dates: Dec. 22, 23 & 25, 2019
Site: Stan Sheriff Center / Honolulu, HI

First-round matchups:

Houston vs. Portland
Georgia Tech vs. Boise State
UTEP vs. Washington
Ball State vs. Hawaii

Team to beat: Washington has plenty of hype right now, mostly due to the arrival of top-10 recruits Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. It’s a young group, but the Huskies have a very high ceiling.

Sleeper team: After a subpar season a year ago, Boise State returns its top four scorers and adds several talented transfers. The Broncos should bounce back to their usual form this season.

Player to watch: The key to Houston’s season is Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes. If he gets a waiver to play immediately, the Cougars are a top-25 team and an AAC title contender.

Something for the college hoops junkies: Christmas in Hawaii, potentially watching a showdown between two of the best defensive teams in the country in Houston and Washington? Sounds good to me. — Jeff Borzello



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