What we learned in Maui

Updated: November 26, 2011, 2:37 AM ET
By Jay Bilas

More than any other early-season tournament, the EA Sports Maui Invitational provides a team with a true barometer of exactly where it is and what it can be. Weaknesses are exposed, and coaches can tell which players they can rely on and, perhaps, which players they cannot. It also provides a great atmosphere in which to play. The gym is small but incredibly loud when full and something is on the line. However, when you lose and play in the consolation bracket, you have to bring your own energy. It simulates a postseason conference tournament with the limited practice and prep time, and with all the distractions. It might be a long trip, but I have never heard anyone complain. The benefits are well worth a little jet lag and sunburn.

Here's what I took away from this year's field.

Great contrast: The Lahaina Civic Center was half-Cameron and half-Phog on Wednesday night, and it was fabulous. On the decisive play of the Duke-Kansas final, Seth Curry did not travel; he traveled twice. The officials simply missed it. But the contrast in the crowd when Tyler Thornton hit his circus shot was priceless. The Cameron side was jumping around in utter disbelief and joy, and the Phog side was jumping up and down giving the universal signal for traveling. It was bedlam, and it was a really cool scene. To me, Cameron and the Phog are the two best basketball venues on the planet, and it was pretty cool to have them both represented in the same building and in such a cozy atmosphere. All that was missing were the students.