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September 14, 2009
Around the Rim
Buffalo Basketball

by John Perrotto

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The field at the EA Sports Maui Invitational is traditionally as strong as at any in-season tournament in college basketball.

That will be the case again this year when the eight-team event takes place from Nov. 23-25 at Lahaina, Hawaii. The field will include Arizona, Cincinnati, Colorado, Gonzaga, Maryland, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin and host Chaminade.

The one team that seems out of place is Colorado. The Buffaloes were 9-22 last winter for their third consecutive 20-loss season. They have not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2003.

While Colorado seems destined to play Chaminade in the seventh-place game, the Buffaloes are looking at their trip to Maui as a chance to make a name for themselves.

"Everyone is really looking forward to it," sophomore point guard Nate Tomlinson told the Boulder Daily Camera. "We definitely want to make an impact over there and put ourselves on the map. We're getting ready right now, doing all we can to get ready for that."

"That's going to be a huge opportunity for us to play against some of the best of the best," junior shooting guard Levi Knutson said. "I got excited just looking at the tournament bracket online. It's something we're looking forward to because it's a great opportunity for us to win some big games."

Colorado is optimistic that it will be greatly improved this season as four starters return with senior guard Dwight Thorne II, junior guard Corey Higgins and sophomore forward Austin Dufult joining Tomlinson. Higgins led the team with a 106.7 offensive rating last season while also ranking 22nd in the nation in percentage of minutes (91.3), 75th in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (6.1) and 87th in free throw rate (61.1).

Colorado has three winnable games before traveling to Maui as it opens at home against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Coppin State and Texas Southern.

Colorado will play Gonzaga in the first round in Maui while Cincinnati and Vanderbilt will meet in the other first-round game in that half of the bracket. The matchups in the other side of the bracket are Arizona vs. Wisconsin and Maryland vs. Chaminade.

More November Action

On the subject of tournaments, Duke, Connecticut, Louisiana State and Arizona will host regional rounds in the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off.

Duke will play Coastal Carolina and Charlotte will face Elon at Durham in first round of the East Regional. Connecticut will play Colgate and Hofstra will face Yale in first round of the North regional at Storrs. LSU will play Indiana State and Western Kentucky will face Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the first round of the South regional at Baton Rouge. Arizona State will play Texas State and Texas Christian will play Cal State Northridge in the first round of the West regional at Tempe. The regionals will be held on Nov. 16-17.

The four regional winners will advance to Madison Square Garden in New York for the semifinals on Nov. 25 and the finals on Nov. 27. The East and West winners will play in one semifinal and the North and South will meet in the other.

The 2009 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer tournament will also be held at Madison Square Garden. Syracuse and California will meet in one semifinal and North Carolina and Ohio State will square off in the other on Nov. 19 with the finals the next night.

UCLA will add local flavor the 76 Classic that starts Nov. 26 at Anaheim with the Bruins playing Portland and Minnesota meeting Butler in one bracket while West Virginia will face Long Beach State and Texas A&M and Clemson will square off in the other bracket. The second round will be played Nov. 27 and the finals on Nov. 29.

The first-round pairings for Charleston Classic that opens Nov. 19 in Charleston, S.C, include Tulane vs. Miami of Florida and Penn State vs. North Carolina-Wilmington in one bracket; and South Florida vs. Davidson and La Salle vs. South Carolina in the other bracket. The semifinals are Nov. 20 and the finals are set for Nov. 22.

The O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off will begin Nov. 19 in San Juan with Dayton and Georgia Tech meeting in one bracket along with George Mason and Villanova while Indiana and Mississippi will square off in the other bracket as will Boston University and Kansas State. The semifinals will be on Nov. 20 and the finals are slated for Nov. 22.

Florida State will have home-state advantage in the Old Spice Classic, which will be played at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando and see the Seminoles face Iona and Alabama meet Baylor in one half of the bracket on Nov. 26 in the first round while the other bracket will feature Creighton against Michigan and Marquette against Xavier. The semifinals will be Nov. 27 and the finals will be played Nov. 29.

Hawaii will be the host of inaugural Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu and will face College of Charleston in a first-round game on Dec. 22 while Southern Methodist and Nevada-Las Vegas will meet in the other game in that half of the bracket. The other half has matchups of Northeastern vs. Saint Mary's and Western Michigan vs. Southern California. The semifinals will be played on Dec. 23 and the final is set for Christmas.

Wichita State will play Pittsburgh and Texas will face Iowa in the first round of the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBC Classic in Kansas City, Mo., on Nov. 23 and the finals will be held the next evening. The Legends Classic will be played at Atlantic City on Nov. 27-28 with Rutgers playing Massachusetts and Michigan State facing Florida in the first round.

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge returns with the following matchups: Penn State at Virginia on Nov. 30; Maryland at Indiana, Michigan State at North Carolina, Northwestern at North Carolina State, Virginia Tech at Iowa and Wake Forest at Purdue on Dec. 1; and Boston College at Michigan, Duke at Wisconsin, Florida State at Ohio State, Illinois at Clemson and Minnesota at Miami on Dec. 2.

The matchups for the Big-12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series are: Nebraska at Southern California on Nov. 29; Washington at Texas Tech, USC at Texas and Baylor at Arizona State on Dec. 3; Colorado at Oregon State on Dec. 4; Oregon at Missouri, Iowa State at California and Washington State at Kansas State on Dec. 5; Kansas at UCLA and Arizona at Oklahoma on Dec. 6; Oklahoma State at Stanford on Dec. 16; and Texas A&M at Washington on Dec. 22.

And the SEC/Big East Invitational matchups: Georgia vs. St. John's and Kentucky vs. Connecticut at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 9; and DePaul vs. Mississippi State and Syracuse vs. Florida at Tampa on Dec. 10.

Hall's Gonzalez Extended

Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez can be a polarizing figure with his temper and he has a rather pedestrian 47-46 record in his first three years with the Pirates.

However, the Seton Hall administration gave Gonzalez a major vote of confidence last week by signing him to a three-year contract extension that carries through the 2014-15 season.. For that, Gonzalez feels vindicated.

"The biggest thing this does is it shuts everybody up," Gonzalez said. "Seton Hall is stepping up and letting everybody know that he's the coach. He's going to be there. He's been there and he'll be there for the future. I don't think schools are in the habit of giving people six years. It allows me and my staff to go about our business and do our jobs."

Seton Hall, which hasn't been to the NCAAs since 2006, went 17-15 last season. However, the Pirates will have four starters back in senior guard Eugene Harvey, junior guard Jeremy Hazell, senior center John Garcia and junior forward Robert Mitchell. They should be bolstered by two transfers with two seasons of eligibility remaining, forward Herb Pope (New Mexico State) and guard Keon Lawrence (Missouri). Garcia had a team-high 109.8 offensive rating last season and was 48th in the nation in effective field goal percentage (60.6). Hazell was 43rd in percentage of minutes played (89.7), 53rd in percentage of shots (31.6) and 94th in turnover rate (12.1).

Red Storm Travels Well

St. John's hopes four wins in 32 hours in two Canadian provinces over Labor Day weekend will help get it off on the right foot for the 2009-10 season. The Red Storm went 16-18 last season, giving them five more victories than the season before.

"I thought the trip was great," coach Norm Roberts said. "Our guys played really hard and had to fight through some adversity with some tough situations and tough crowds. We really made plays when we needed to."

The most impressive individual effort was junior swingman D.J. Kennedy scoring 19 points and grabbing nine rebounds, both game highs, in a 71-54 victory over Carleton, which has won six of the last seven national championships in Canada.

St. John's returns its top eight players from last season and will also welcome back senior forward Anthony Mason Jr., who received a medical redshirt last season after breaking his foot in the third game. Along with Kennedy, key returnees include junior guards Paris Horne and Malik Boothe, junior forwards Sean Evans, Justin Burrell, Rob Thomas and Dele Coker and sophomore guard Quincy Roberts. Thomas' 108.8 offensive rating last season led the Red Storm and Kennedy was 99th in the country in percentage of minutes played with 86.2.

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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