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Breaking down Indiana basketball’s possible matchups in the 2020 ‘Maui’ Invitational

For the first time since 2015, Indiana will be participating in the Maui Invitational.

This time around, the marquee early-season tournament in college basketball will look a little different as it will take place in Asheville, North Carolina at Harrah’s Cherokee Center.

Indiana huddles after practice at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville. (Brian Spurlocki)

The event was moved to the mainland United States due to COVID-19. This is the first year the event will not be taking place in Maui.

Indiana head coach Archie Miller expressed his excitement to get one of the toughest stretches of his schedule underway.

“We are getting ready to take on a Maui field that is really, really talented,” Miller said. “We have our work cut out for us as we get down there. It is obviously the premier event in college basketball at this time of year.”

The eight-team invitational features two, four-team brackets and the winner of each mini bracket will play in the overall championship game. No matter win or lose in whatever round, each team will play three games in three days.

Indiana opens play on Monday against Providence at 2:30 p.m. and will play the winner or loser of Davidson and No. 19 Texas in the game to follow. For Indiana’s third opponent it could be anyone of the following four teams: Stanford, Alabama, UNLV or No. 16 North Carolina.

The one definite opponent for Indiana in the next three days is Providence. Let’s take a specific look at the Friars while also touching on the rest of the field.

Providence 

The Hoosiers’ matchup with Providence is the first since the 1973 NCAA Tournament and only the second meeting ever between the programs.

In 2020, the two hold a number of similarities. Providence, like Indiana, was playing its best basketball at the tail end of the 2019-2020 season and would have likely just snuck in the tournament with a 19-12 record pending results in the Big East Tournament.

The Friars are currently 1-0 in 2020-2021 with a dominant 97-56 win over Fairfield to start the season last Wednesday. Providence head coach Ed Cooley’s roster and performance have made a strong impression on Miller.

“They’re (Providence) a big, strong, physical, talented team,” Miller said. “We may be playing one of the best teams in the field in the first game.”

Miller’s description of their roster is quite accurate as Providence has a major advantage in the size department against Indiana.

Other than 5-foot-10 sophomore guard Jared Bynum, all of Providence’s likely starting lineup is between 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-10.

  • Nate Watson, Sr. 6-foot-10, Center.
  • Greg Gantt, So. 6-foot-8, Forward.
  • AJ Reeves, Jr. 6-foot-6, Guard.
  • David Duke, Jr. 6-foot-5, Guard.

In addition to that, the top three guys off the bench for the Friars, Kris Monroe, Noah Horchler, and Ed Croswell are all 6-foot-8. Indiana only has three players on the roster who are 6-foot-8 or taller in Race Thompson, Trayce Jackson-Davis, and Joey Brunk.

Providence’s starting guards are both very talented in Duke and Reeves, each scoring 18 and 14 points per game, respectively.

The focal point and go-to option for Providence is Nate Watson, though. The strong senior center has a big body and works very well around the point. He had 23 points and 10 rebounds in an efficient 8-for-11 shooting night against Fairfield.

Joey Brunk’s availability, depending on if he is back healthy after resting against Tennessee Tech due to a sore back, will determine a lot in how Indiana guards Watson.

Should Brunk be healthy, he and Jackson-Davis will likely split responsibility in guarding him. If he is not, Jackson-Davis will be locked in on guarding the senior.

As of now, Brunk is expected to play.

Listen to “Indiana Basketball Podcast: Previewing The 2020 Maui (Asheville) Invitational” on Spreaker.

No. 19 Texas

Whether Indiana wins or loses, it will play either Texas or Davidson after the game with Providence.

Texas has a very talented team that has earned national recognition, being ranked No. 19 in the country. The team also returns a large contingent of its talent with a very veteran-laden group. Of 14 players, 10 are either juniors or seniors.

Greg Brown is the only freshman. The former McDonald’s All-American and No. 9 player in the 2020 recruiting class (247Sports Composite) had 11 points and 10 rebounds in his college debut in Texas’ 91-55 win over University of Texas Rio Grande Valley:

Brown did struggle some in his first game, only going 2-for-8 from the field and committing five turnovers, but the talent is all there for the 6-foot-9 forward.

A talented and balanced group complements Brown in the starting lineup, including 6-foot-11 sophomore center Kai Jones and 6-foot-10 senior forward Jericho Sims in the frontcourt.

Veteran guards junior Courtney Ramey and senior Matt Coleman are perhaps Texas’ two best players, though. Each guard was a consistent starter a year ago and made up for two of Texas’ top three scorers in 19-20.

Wednesday night’s win featured Ramey scoring 20 points with seven assists and Coleman going for 17 points and five assists.

Davidson

The other possibility for Indiana’s second game in the neutral-site invitational are the Davidson Wildcats.

Davidson is known to be one of the better mid-major programs nationally and consistently has a competitive team. In the past five seasons, the Wildcats have won 20 or more games three times, with their last NCAA Tournament appearance coming in 2018.

Last season was a bit of a down year for the Wildcats, only going 16-14 before the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament was cancelled. In the Atlantic 10 preseason poll for the 2020-2021 season, Davidson was picked to finish seventh.

Thus far, Davidson has only played one game, beating High Point 82-73 last Wednesday. The Wildcats had four of their five starters reach double digits with sophomore Hyunjung Lee and senior Kellan Grady leading the way.

Lee finished with 23 points, nine assists, and five rebounds while going 5-for-10 from 3-point range. Grady added 20 points along with six boards, as well.

As a team, the Wildcats were just under 40 percent from 3, going 11-for-28 beyond the arc.

Miller had strong praise to Davidson, especially when it came to the team’s shooting.

“One of the best shooting teams year in and year out from three in the country, high scoring – they’re great,” Miller said.

Fast Facts About the Other Four

Stanford:

  • They have not played yet due to their first game of the season against Utah Valley being canceled due to COVID-19.
  • They return their leading scorer from a year ago (15.7 PPG) in Oscar da Silva, a senior and 6-foot-9 power forward.
  • Freshman forward Ziaire Williams was the No. 6 overall prospect in the class of 2020 (247Sports Composite) and a McDonald’s All-American. 

Alabama:

  • Crimson Tide are 1-0, handling Jacksonville State 81-57 on Nov. 25.
  • They went 16-15 last season before the season was called off.
  • Villanova transfer and former 5-star McDonald’s All-American guard Javhon Quinerly has provided a boost to the team. He was their leading scorer against Jacksonville State.

No. 16 North Carolina:

  • The traditional blue blood had its worst season in some time last year, going 14-19 and tying for last in the ACC regular season.
  • They should be much better this year and brought in the No. 2 ranked recruiting class in 2020, including three 5-star prospects.
  • The last time the Tar Heels played in the Maui Invitational was the 2016-2017 season. They won the Maui and in the same season won the 2017 NCAA national title.

UNLV:

  • The season is off to a very tough start, losing to Montana State 91-78 on Nov. 25.
  • A season ago the Rebels were 17-15.
  • Bryce Hamilton, a junior and their leading scorer from a year ago (16 PPG) had a team-high 27 points against Montana State.

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