The Maui Invitational bracket was announced today and UCLA Basketball meets UNLV in the first round. Winner of that game plays the winner of Kansas-Chaminade.
Every year, the Maui Invitational boasts one of the most stacked fields of all the early-season college basketball tournaments, and with a field that has won 20 NCAA titles and made 47 Final Fours between them, this year is no different. The bracket for the Thanksgiving Week showdown was released Tuesday, and is as follows:
The Lahaina Civic Center brings back its fair share of memories for UCLA Baketball. Among the high notes is the 2006 tournament, in which UCLA defeated Chaminade, Kentucky, and Georgia Tech to win the championship.
And then there was 2011. Bruin fans don’t like to talk about the 2011-12 season. This was the season in which noted computer thief Jerime Anderson lead the team in assists, Joshua Smith (yes, that Joshua Smith) was the starting center, and right before Reeves Nelson, who was last seen in an Israeli coffee shop sipping tea whilst pondering the Taoist teachings of Lao Tzu and the philosophy of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, got kicked off the team.
“Between sips of tea, he went on to delve into both the Taoist teachings of Lao Tzu as well as the philosophy of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks”
– Josiah Himmelman, in his Jersualem Post story on Reeves Nelson
It was also during this season that UCLA lost a Maui Invitational game before even getting to Maui, and while in Maui, lost to both Kansas and Michigan by 16 points on national television. The Bruins haven’t returned to Maui since.
Speaking of bad memories, the Bruins’ opponent for the opening round on the mainland is Cal Poly. Hopefully the Bruins won’t overlook this matchup with the Mustangs at Pauley Pavilion, considering what happened last time.
Luckily, things are different now. The Bruins have a new coach, new players, and no computer thieves. Even the tournament itself underwent a change: it has a new, more apt sponsor. No longer is this tournament the EA Sports Maui Invitational, its new and not-at-all-redundant name is the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.
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The Bruins play the final game of the first day of the 2015 Maui Invitational against UNLV. Arguably the most intriguing storyline of this matchup centers around Stephen Zimmerman. Zimmerman, who is seven feet tall and a 5-star recruit, opted to stay close to home and play for the Runnin’ Rebels, despite an offer from UCLA. He also turned down offers from Kentucky, Arizona, and Kansas, who UNLV would likely play in the second round should they beat UCLA.
Key departures from last year include the UNLV’s leading scorers in Rashad Vaughn and Christian Wood, who both declared for the NBA Draft. Cody Doolin, who lead the team in assists, graduated. In addition to Vaughn, another freshman chose to leave UNLV. After spending a lot of time on the bench, Dantley Walker transferred to D-II Chaminade, the tournament hosts whom UNLV will likely play if they lose to the Bruins.
Dec 23, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UNLV Runnin
The Bruins cracked last year when they played in front of a national audience in early season games. They were disappointing on ESPN2 against Oklahoma, losing by 10. They let Gonzaga pull away late and lost by 13 on ESPN2. Kentucky laid waste to them in a 39 point loss on CBS. They even fell flat against Alabama on ESPNU.
UCLA can’t let that happen again. Last year, the bubble was weak and the selection committee had a very short term memory. The Bruins can’t count on that luck again, and with big games against Kentucky, Gonzaga, and North Carolina already scheduled, they have no excuse not to rise to the occasion at least once when all eyes are on them.
The Bahamas was a disaster. The Bruins can’t afford to get lost in paradise again.