One of the early-season tournaments that regularly brings in a highly competitive field is the Gulf Coast Showcase. Taking place down in Southwest Florida inside Germain Arena, any of the eight teams could realistically come away with the tournament title when all is said and done.
Last year was no exception. In the end, the Weber State Wildcats took down the Murray State Racers to win the 2015 Gulf Coast Showcase in a battle of two top-tier mid-major programs.
On Friday, the bracket for the 2016 edition of the event was released. From top to bottom, there are talented programs who will be vying for an early-season tournament title.
Eight different conference are represented in the event, which takes place from November 21-23, 2016.
Below are the four opening round match-ups for the event.
Vermont Catamounts (America East) v. Wofford Terriers (Southern Conference)
The Catamounts and Terriers provide a great opening for the 2016 event, as talented players on both sides of the ball will make for arguably the best opening round game.
For Vermont, the loss of Ethan O’Day will be tough to replace, but they return virtually everyone else, a list that includes Ernie Duncan and Trae Bell-Haynes. As for the Terriers, Eric Garcia and talented freshman Fletcher Magee are back for another go-round, and will make Wofford a title threat down in Southwest Florida.
Hofstra Pride (Colonial) v. Bradley Braves (Missouri Valley)
The second game features two teams who could be trending in the opposite directions in 2016-17, as the Pride are without two of their stars from last season, while the Braves return the bulk of their scoring.
Hofstra will be without both Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, both of whom graduated following last season. But, they do return budding star Rokas Gustys, who is one of the top rebounders in the country. For the Braves, their top five scorers return from last year’s team that went just 5-27, including Donte Thomas and Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye. Bradley could surprise a few people this season, as they are more experienced than they were a year prior.
Kent State Golden Flashes (Mid-American) v. South Dakota Coyotes (Summit League)
Like the second matchup, the third could feature a pair of teams going in opposite directions in 2016-17.
The Golden Flashes return star forward Jimmy Hall, who is one of the best players in the MAC, and one of the more underrated players in the entire NCAA. He will keep Kent State in contention this season, and could lead them to the winner’s side of the bracket come November. On the flip side, South Dakota will be without plenty of talent from last year’s team. Look for Iowa Hawkeyes‘ transfer Trey Dickerson to take on a large role for the Coyotes this season.
Houston Cougars (American Athletic) v. George Mason (Atlantic 10)
The lone team from a major conference in college basketball will close out the first round against a team who became one of America’s teams back in the 2006 NCAA Tournament with their run to the Final Four.
Houston lost both L.J. Rose and Ronnie Johnson to transfers following the 2015-16 season, which will undoubtedly hurt the team this season. However, Oregon Ducks‘ transfer Damyean Dotson and Rob Gray, Jr. will keep the Cougars relevant this season, and could lead the team to a Gulf Coast Showcase title. The Cougars will have to contend with rising star Otis Livingston II, who is coming off a strong freshman campaign for the Patriots. If the rest of the team can give him some support, George Mason could be a sleeper pick in the event.
Vermont def. Wofford
Hofstra def. Bradley
Kent State def. South Dakota
Houston def. George Mason
Vermont def. Hofstra
Houston def. Kent State
Houston def. Vermont
– T. Bennett