Maui Invitational: What bettors need to know

Nov 20, 2012 |
Maui Invitational: What bettors need to know
Texas must put an upset loss to Chaminade behind it before facing USC at the Maui.
Texas must put an upset loss to Chaminade behind it before facing USC at the Maui.
Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (+12.5, 136)

After dropping their openers at the Maui Invitational in much different fashion, Mississippi State and Marquette will try to regroup when they meet Tuesday. The Bulldogs were blown out almost from the opening tip against No. 9 North Carolina, about 2 1/2 hours after Marquette lost to Butler on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Mississippi State only brought six scholarship players to the tournament and have eight available overall. Starting guard Jalen Steele broke his wrist last week against Florida Atlantic and reserve forward Colin Borchert is suspended for the trip.

TV: 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

ABOUT MARQUETTE (2-1): The Golden Eagles are probably still wondering how they lost to Butler in the tournament’s opening game. They held a two-point lead with eight seconds remaining and Junior Cadougan was at the line shooting his second free throw. Cadougan missed, however, and Butler guard Rotnei Clarke brought the ball up court, flinging in a 3-point basket at the buzzer. If there was a silver lining from the game it was the play of 6-4 junior guard Vander Blue, who scored 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting and played like the top prospect the Golden Eagles recruited three years ago.

ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-2): Wendell Lewis and Gavin Ware turned in the two most impressive performances against the Tar Heels, and the 6-9 post players should pose a similar challenge for Marquette. Lewis scored 10 points against North Carolina, reaching double digits for only the fourth time in his four-year career. Ware, a 270-pound freshman, scored eight points off the bench and gathered nine rebounds.

Texas Longhorns vs. USC Trojans (+2, 119)

USC and Texas will try to rebound from disappointing first-round losses when they meet in the consolation bracket of the Maui Invitational. The Longhorns suffered a shocking 86-73 first-round defeat to Chaminade, a Division II program, less than 24 hours earlier. Chaminade had won only six previous games in its 29 seasons as tournament hosts. USC didn’t show up in the first half against Illinois either, committing nine turnovers in the first 12 minutes and falling behind by 31 points at the half before eventually losing 94-64.

TV: 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2.

ABOUT USC (2-1): The Trojans will likely need more offense from senior point guard Jio Fontan if they hope to have an impact this season. The team’s second-leading scorer (10.5) and assist leader (3.2) two years ago, Fontan has cobbled together just 19 points through the first three games, is shooting 25 percent from the floor and has turned the ball over 10 times compared to 11 assists. After sitting out all of last season following knee surgery, Fontan has increased his shot totals and scoring each game. It would be beneficial to the  Trojans if he could maintain that upward plane.

ABOUT TEXAS (2-1): If the Longhorns can’t get up for this game they could be in for another rude awakening. Texas can point to several areas in which it needs improvement. The Longhorns had just 10 assists compared to 18 turnovers and were out-rebounded by a team without a player taller than 6-8. They also shot 56.7 percent (17 for 30) from the free-throw line and 19 percent (4 for 21) from 3-point range. Sheldon McClellan, a 6-4 sophomore guard who entered the tournament averaging 22.5 points through the first two games, was held to 14 and most of those came when the game was out of hand.

Butler Bulldogs vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (-10, 138)

Butler won’t have long to savor its wild opening-round victory at the Maui Invitational. The Bulldogs will face No. 9 North Carolina on Tuesday in the semifinals. The Tar Heels ran right through Mississippi State in their opener 95-49. Butler has a better chance to stay with North Carolina if it can avoid double-digit turnovers. The Bulldogs gave the ball away only seven times against Marquette, allowing them to stay in the game and eventually win on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Rotnei Clarke.  North Carolina took advantage of an undermanned Mississippi State team and forced 22 giveaways.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Brad Stevens must be especially pleased with the offensive balance displayed by his starters. Four finished in double figures against Marquette, led by a career-high 24 points from 6-6 junior forward Khyle Marshall. Clarke also appears to be settling in nicely. He led Arkansas in scoring as a junior, then redshirted last season after transferring. Stevens, who guided the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament final in 2010 and 2011, likely wants to see more from his bench, however. They combined for only two points against Marquette.

Not much went wrong for the Tar Heels in their tournament opener. They scored the game’s first nine points, hit a half-court shot to end the first half and continued to dominate even after their starters called it a day. Leslie McDonald was probably the biggest surprise. After finishing fifth in scoring on a talent-laden team two years ago, the 6-5 junior guard missed all of last season after undergoing knee surgery. He exploded for a career-high 21 points against Mississippi State, making 6 of 10 3-pointers.

Illinois Fighting Illini at Chaminade Silverswords (+14, 146)

Chaminade will need to shake off the euphoria of Monday’s shocking upset victory against Texas and buckle down for an equally tough foe in Illinois. The Fighting Illini beat USC by 30 points a few hours after Chaminade fans stormed the court following the Silverswords victory against the Longhorns, only their seventh win in 83 games as tournament hosts. Both teams looked real comfortable inside the Lahaina Civic Center. Illinois made 12 consecutive field goals during one stretch of the game. Chaminade, a Division II program, made 34 of 39 free throws and 10 of 30 3-point attempts.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

The Illini were already loaded in the backcourt with seniors Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, now they have sophomore Tracy Abrams elevating his game enough to pass junior Joseph Bertrand on the depth chart and Richardson in the scoring column. Abrams is averaging 15.2 points, second on the team to Paul, after averaging 4.3 as a freshman. Bertrand, fourth on the team in scoring last season (6.5) gives Illinois considerable depth at guard. He played a season-high 22 minutes against the Trojans and scored a season-high nine points while also contributing five rebounds and three steals.

Chaminade hasn’t been to the semifinals of this tournament since beating Villanova in 1993. "We're ecstatic," said second-year coach Eric Bovaird. "That's an incredible win for our program. We believed all along that we could play with these guys over here." Even after missing their first 10 shots and falling behind 8-0, the Silverswords didn’t run and hide, instead storming back to take a four-point halftime lead and quickly extending it to double digits after intermission. Chaminade has never won two games in the same year at the Maui Invitational, something that could provide added motivation.

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