Another in-season tournament schedule has been officially completed, as the slate for the MGM Grand Main Event (to be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas) was announced Wednesday by BD Global Sports. The tournament consists of two four-team brackets, with the teams in the Heavyweight Bracket (Clemson, Creighton, Massachusetts and Rutgers) getting to host at least two home games before heading to Las Vegas for games November 23 (Monday) and 25 (Wednesday).
In the Heavyweight Bracket semifinals November 23, Clemson will take on UMass with Creighton/Rutgers being the other matchup. The consolation and championship games will be held two days later.
There’s also a Middleweight Bracket, with UTSA and Central Arkansas meeting in one semifinal and Texas Southern and Howard in the other. Those four teams will play two road games apiece against the teams in the Heavyweight Bracket before they play in the afternoon sessions in Las Vegas November 23 and 25.
Of the eight teams in the event just one, Texas Southern, played in the NCAA tournament last season. Mike Davis’ Tigers, who won games at Kansas State and Michigan State last season, was the SWAC’s automatic entrant and lost to Arizona in the round of 64.
Monday, Nov. 23 – Session 2 (Evening Session – Game Times TBD)
Clemson vs. UMass
Creighton vs. Rutgers
Wednesday, Nov. 25 – Session 4 (Evening Session – Game Times TBD)
Heavyweight Championship Game
Monday, Nov. 23 – Session 1(Afternoon Session – Game Times TBD)
UTSA vs Central Arkansas
Texas Southern vs. Howard
Wednesday, Nov. 25 – Session 3 (Afternoon Session – Game Times TBD)
Middleweight Championship Game
Nov. 13 – Howard at UMass
Nov. 14 – Texas Southern at Creighton
Nov. 15 – UTSA at Clemson
Nov. 15 – Howard at Rutgers
Nov. 17 – UTSA at Creighton
Nov. 19 – Texas Southern at Clemson
Nov. 19 – Central Arkansas at UMass
Nov. 21 – Central Arkansas at Rutgers
The NIT Season Tip-Off will have a different look this upcoming season, as there are four teams who will be guaranteed a trip to Brooklyn for games November 26 and 27. With there being more in-season tournaments, it’s been tougher for the event that has usually been a 16-team single-elimination affair to fill out its bracket. Also of note is the location, as games will be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as opposed to the traditional home of Madison Square Garden.
The most noteworthy of the four teams is Villanova, which has won the last two Big East regular season titles and is seen by many as the early favorite in that conference race. Of course there’s also the fact that Jay Wright’s team has failed to get out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons, something they’ll look to change with a mixture of veterans (Big East co-Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacono leads the way) and newcomers led by McDonald’s All-American Jalen Brunson.
Villanova will take on a Stanford team that looks much different from the one that cut down the nets at the Postseason NIT just over four months ago. Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown and Stefan Nastic are all out of eligibility, but a deep sophomore class led by Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey returns as do veterans Rosco Allen and Marcus Allen (no relation).
The other semifinal matches a team that reached the NCAA tournament last season in Arkansas, and one that fell well short of that goal in Georgia Tech. The Razorbacks, whose front court depth took a hit with the news that incoming freshman Ted Kapita was headed to prep school for at least the first semester, will have to account for the loss of SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis.
For Georgia Tech, this is a big year for head coach Brian Gregory as he looks to turn things around in Atlanta. Marcus Georges-Hunt and Charles Mitchell are among the returnees, and former Alabama forward Nick Jacobs will be eligible after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules.
Arkansas/Georgia Tech will be the first game of the doubleheader on November 26, with the third-place and championship games scheduled for the following afternoon. Also of note in this new setup is that each of the four teams headed to Brooklyn will get to play two home games before making the trip.
While Colorado, Kent State, Penn State and SMU were all guaranteed two home games apiece as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic ahead of the semifinals December 22 at the Orleans Arena, the matchups for the semifinals had yet to be announced. That announcement came Friday, with SMU set to take on Kent State in the first game and Colorado playing Penn State in the nightcap.
The third place and championship games will be played the following night.
Of the four teams SMU will enter the 2015-16 season with the highest expectations, with head coach Larry Brown returning a good portion of his rotation from a season ago led by point guard Nic Moore and power forward Markus Kennedy. The Mustangs made their first NCAA tournament appearance in more than two decades last season, winning the American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles as well.
Colorado returns four starts from last season’s team, but they’ll only have three available due to the ruptured Achilles tendon suffered by forward Xavier Johnson. Forward/center Josh Scott will lead the way for Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes, with players such as Dominique Collier and Wesley Gordon needing to step forward.
Penn State will have to account for the loss of guard D.J. Newbill from last season’s team, and Kent State returns much of its front court from last season including All-MAC forward Jimmy Hall.