College basketball is back, and with it comes early-season tournaments. The Maui Invitational is perhaps the best-known tournament, and Pitt will actually compete in it this year.
But now we have several tournaments in New York, one in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Orlando, etc. It’s all part of the non-conference schedules for most teams and these tournaments typically try to get one team from a few of the major conferences.
For example, Maui features a team from the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Big 12 and Mountain West. They try to feature the best teams in the country, but there are so many tournaments now that they are starting to get a little watered down. And they are all very national—with teams from all over the country.
Which is why I’m proposing that we start to make them a little more regional—and Pennsylvania is a great place to start this movement.
Think about it: The Pennsylvania Tip-Off Classic (it’s a working title).
Thanks to conference realignment, the eight biggest hoops schools in the state are all in different conferences—so we wouldn’t have to worry about teams from the same conference playing each other.
• Pitt – ACC
• Villanova – Big east
• Temple – American
• Penn State – Big Ten
• Duquesne – Atlantic-10
• Robert Morris – Northeast Conference
• Penn – Ivy League
• Bucknell – Patriot League
Sure, only a handful of those teams are good during any given year, but they all have some great history. Those eight schools have combined for 34 NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 10 years. (The only team that hasn’t gone dancing in that time is Duquesne)
And there are several great arenas that could host games throughout the state. Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia have both hosted the NCAA Tournament. The Bryce Jordan Center in State College is a nice, central location. And you even have some smaller venues—like the minor league hockey arenas in Hershey, Wilkes-Barre and Reading.
So below are a few options for how the tournament could work.
Eight team tournament, three games in three days.
This is how the Maui Invitational works. Each team plays three games in three days. The winners for the first four games play each other on the second day, while the losers play each other as well. Then, on the third day, you have the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th place games.
This is a great way to test a team’s stamina early in the season, especially when the end of the season often critically relies on a similar marathon in teams’ conference tournaments.
You could even guarantee a rivalry game to start the tournament, like having the City Game cap off opening day to guarantee that those storied games takes place.
Here’s a sample bracket:
East vs. West
Pennsylvania is basically two different states anyway (Team Sheetz for life!), so this could really play into that. In this scenario, the tournament would span two weekends. The four eastern teams (Penn State would be in the west for math purposes), and the four western teams would play each other one weekend. Then, have the championship game the following weekend.
Again, we could keep the City Game and you’d guarantee at least one Philly rivalry game.
Here’s what this would look like:
You still want schools to have the opportunity to play in some other tournaments, and Pitt and Penn State always have a tough game the first week of December for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, which is why in my examples above, I used the first weekend in December as the dates. This is usually when the City Game is played.
And we all know that Pitt and Penn State will not be playing football games on Championship Saturday.
But the following weekend is also a possibility. Finals are usually over by then, so we might even get some good student sections.
I’ve said “Pennsylvania Tip-Off Classic” is a working title. That’s because it’s also a terrible title. I’m open to suggestions. Let me know in the comments. Here are some of my ideas:
– The Quaker Shake (presented by Quaker Steak and Lube)
– The Keystone Classic
– The Pennsylvania Playoffs
– Second State Slam
– The Commonwealth Games (there would be some trademark issues there)
Hopefully, someone that actually has some influence will like this idea. So make it happen, ADs.
Also, if it does happen, I hope I get some royalties.