Early season college basketball tournaments are more than just a chance to see some of the nation’s best teams and players square off on neutral floors. Past history indicates winning a grueling, three-game event in November or December – such as ESPN Events’ five in-season elimination tournaments – are often a precursor to winning it all in April. Or at least reaching the Final Four.
Louisville’s run to the 2013 NCAA title snapped a four-year streak in which the national champion also won an early-season tournament. And still, finalist Michigan (NIT Season Tip-Off) and fellow Final Four participant Wichita State (Cancun Challenge) raised a trophy early in the season.
Before that, 2012 national champion Kentucky (Hall of Fame Tip Off Classic), 2011 champ Connecticut (Maui Invitational), 2010 winner Duke (NIT) and 2009 champ North Carolina (Maui) all tasted success early before winning late.
That’s not all. Last season’s Old Spice Classic winner, Gonzaga, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. So did Legends Classic champ, Indiana. Duke won the Battle 4 Atlantis before reaching the Elite Eight. Before California knocked off No. 5 seed UNLV in the first round it took the Anaheim Classic.
Many coaches jump at competing in an early season event because it gives players a taste of what's to come in conference tournaments and the NCAA championship. And history shows teams that excel playing on consecutive days and against good competition at neutral sites often carry that over into March.
So while you watch teams play three games in four days at the Wooden Legacy, Charleston Classic, Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, Puerto Rico Tip-Off and Old Spice Classic this fall, tuck away the information. It just might help your NCAA bracket.