When Maui Invitational chairman Dave Odom set out to line up next season’s bracket, he and ESPN officials tried to arrange appealing first-round storylines.
“We look at what would ignite interest from the fans,” said Odom, the former coach at Wake Forest and South Carolina. “We don’t really seed 1-8 and it works better that way because it gives you the flexibility to kind of feed the imagination of the fans.”
So there was San Diego State and BYU, the former Mountain West rivals who no longer have to face each other with the Cougars’ departure for the West Coast Conference.
There was Kansas State and Purdue, with a strong connection between coaches Matt Painter of Purdue and Bruce Weber of Kansas State.
And even Pitt-Chaminade features Panthers coach Jamie Dixon against a Hawaiian team, after he found his wife in Hawaii and spent two seasons as an assistant with the University of Hawaii in the early 1990s.
Then there’s Arizona and Missouri, where there’s …. Arizona. And a rebuilding opponent.
Odom says the Wildcats will have a lot to offer themselves.
“The fact is that Arizona comes in as the marquee entry this year, there’s no question about that,” Odom said. “They accomplished so much last year and were it not for an injury, they’d have a chance to go another round or two. When you look at the field going into the season they’re going to be top five, or one two or three. They’ve got veteran players coming back. They’re very skilled and they have a great young coach who understands the value of the tournament like the EA Sports Maui Invitational.”
Of course, the Wildcats still have a chance to play into one of their two big potential storylines: If they face either West Coast rival SDSU or Pittsburgh, where Sean Miller played. But that would only happen either in the championship game or in a consolation game on the final day.
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