On the heels of Tuesday’s massive 89-84 victory over Kentucky in the Champions Classic, the top-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team now turns its attention to the Maui Invitational.
While the tournament will be played in Honolulu rather than Lahaina because of this summer’s devastating wildfires on Maui, it features a loaded field that includes five teams ranked in the top 11 of the current Associated Press Poll. This got BetKansas.com thinking about which early-season college basketball tournaments have showcased the most highly ranked teams over the years.
Using sports-reference.com/cbb, BetKansas.com reviewed the field of every eight-team event since 2000 and scored each based on the number of top 25 teams in the tournament, awarding 25 points for having the nation’s No. 1 team in the field, 24 for the second-ranked team and so on down to 1 point for the 25th-ranked team. After conducting this research, it became clear just how special a field the Maui Invitational will host this year.
Here is a comparison of the tournament to past events and a preview of what is to come for those wanting in on the Kansas sports betting action when the games tip off Monday afternoon.
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ESPN BET Kansas lists the Jayhawks as the men’s basketball national championship favorite at +1000 odds. Duke and Purdue are tied for second at +1200.
Maui Has Second Straight Stacked Field
Last year’s Maui Invitational was the first multi-team event of the 21st century to feature five ranked teams, however none of those teams placed higher than ninth in the Associated Press Poll the week of the event.
This year’s tournament includes four teams ranked higher than last year’s top ranked team and brings together three top 10 teams in the same event for the first time since the 2018 Maui Invitational, though it will be the first tournament this century to involve four top 10 teams.
Even with the impressive competition, Kansas enters the tournament as a +175 favorite to take home the trophy according to FanDuel Kansas. While the Jayhawks and fellow field member Purdue currently hold the same national championship odds at +1100 per the sportsbook, the way the bracket shakes out in the event greatly benefits Kansas.
The Jayhawks first game in Hawaii comes against tournament host Chaminade, a Division II school, whereas the Boilermakers open against 11th-ranked Gonzaga. Should Kansas sail past the Silverswords as expected, it will face the winner of UCLA-Marquette.
College basketball analytics website KenPom.com gives Marquette a 67% chance of advancing past UCLA, but both the Golden Eagles and Bruins provide fascinating matchups for this Jayhawks squad. Marquette returns four starters from last season’s 29-7 Big East regular season championship team, and the fourth-ranked Golden Eagles possess one of the few offenses in the sport that can keep up with a Kansas team averaging 95.7 points per game through three games.
UCLA (which by the way slots in just four spots outside the AP top 25 in the receiving votes category) presents an entirely different challenge with their size, defense and style of play. The Bruins have held their first three opponents to an average of 50.7 points per game on a combined 33.8% from the field and operate at one of the 30 slowest paces in Division I, antithetical to Kansas, which currently leads the country in adjusted tempo per KenPom.
Purdue-Gonzaga Square Off in First Round
On the Purdue side of the bracket, the Boilermakers contest with Gonzaga offers a rare opening-round matchup as it will be only the fourth time in the 40-year history of the Maui Invitational that ranked teams have met in their first game. To add to the excitement, Purdue and Gonzaga rate as the top two offenses in the country according to KenPom, with both teams adjusted efficiencies above 119 points per 100 possessions.
The winner of Purdue-Gonzaga will likely take on seventh-ranked Tennessee in the semifinals. The Volunteers have a 90% chance of beating Syracuse in the first round per KenPom, which helps explain why Kansas sportsbook apps list Tennessee as the second favorite in the event at +320 over the higher ranked Boilermakers, though Purdue’s odds to win the tournament are just behind at +340.
After struggling to score at times last year, the Volunteers have put up 80 or more points in all three of their games so far this season while continuing to play the stifling brand of defense they have become known for under Rick Barnes. Tennessee defeated Kansas 64-50 in last year’s Battle 4 Atlantis championship game.