On the Wednesday, November 21, and Thursday, November 22, in Little Rock, Arkansas, Maui on the Mainland will take place.
First round game
Samford vs. Cal State-Northridge
UMKC vs. UALR
It will feature one SoCon team, Samford. The Bulldogs are a brand new team this year. They are a team that will be picked near the bottom of the SoCon in the preseason. However, they will be implementing a pressure defense (the scores of the VMI, Chattanooga and Samford games should be outrageous), and could be a surprise. Tyler Hood should be the best player. Christen Cunningham appears to be a talented freshman and Darius Jones-Gibson could be good as well. This will be an interesting season. This will be a huge test for the Bulldogs in this tournament to see if they are going to overachieve this year or not.
The Matadors of Cal State-Northridge may well be a contender in the Big West. They have two senior forwards, Stephen Maxwell and Stephan Hicks. Those two averaged 17.5 and 17.2 points and 8.8 and 6.8 boards per game. In other words, they are two of the top players in the Big West and will be two of the top players in this tournament. There will be two big guys trying to play with them- Tre Hale-Edmerson and Kevin Johnson. The Matadors are a big team and will be a challenge to face in this tournament for any team.
UALR returns JT Thomas from injury. DeVonte Thomas lead the Sun Belt in assist-to-turnover ratio last year. Josh Hagins and James White each averaged in double digits last year. Roger Woods is a junior college transfer who should be a dynamic scorer. The Trojans went 15-17 a year ago, but look like a team in line for a major move forward in the Sun Belt. This tournament is on their home floor. A good showing would go a long way to proving that they are on the move. It's time for them to prove it.
The UMKC Kangaroos are in their second year under Kareem Richardson. It's hard to believe, but Richardson has recruited everyone on the roster except for one. This team is dangerous thanks to returning Freshman of the Year Martez Harrison. Reese Holliday and Shayok Shayok were transfers a year ago but get to play this year. This team has a chance to make a major jump in the WAC, but are likely still a year away under Richardson. That being said, a couple of upsets here would work wonders for this team's confidence.
This is set up for UALR and Cal State-Northridge to meet in the championship game. I have little doubt that those are the two teams that will survive to meet up in that game. I also think UMKC will beat Samford in the third place game. I believe that Cal State-Northridge will pull off the road win in the championship game.
Samford will not come away with a win but they will likely keep the third place game very close against UMKC. Samford is a year behind UMKC right now. All those transfers will have a major impact. No Tim Williams. No Isaiah Williams. This team will have problems, but will likely be a little better by the time SoCon play rolls around. But Samford will not have it together yet by this point, though.