2017-18 MTE and Neutral Site Showcase Preview Series: Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic, Hosts’ Bracket

Jordan Caroline is a front-runner for the Mountain West Player of the Year award, and is the leader of a talented Nevada Wolfpack team in 2017-18.

CALGARY, Alta. — The 2017-18 season is just around the corner, and while there’s a debate on Twitter as to when the season actually starts, it can’t get here soon enough.

Schedules are being released with each passing weekday, and many of them feature early-season tournaments and multi-team events all throughout non-conference play. According to Chris Dobbertean and Blogging the Bracket, there are over 30 multi-team tournaments, and another handful of neutral site showcases and non-exempt events.

So, with the season coming up, we thought we would go through and preview all of the early-season tournaments, the non-exempt tournaments, and a wide array of the neutral site showcase events. In total, we will preview 75 different events over the course of the next 75 days, culminating on opening day.

We selected the events at random, and have broken some up into two pieces, like the Phil Knight Invitational, since there are two separate brackets.

Today, we take a look at the Hosts’ Bracket of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.

Event: Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic
Location: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, NV
Dates: December 22nd and 23rd, 2017
Number of Teams: Four
2016-17 Winner: USC Trojans


History of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic

Not to be confused with the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational, which takes place in November, the Las Vegas CLASSIC is an annual event that takes place inside Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

The event itself originated back in 2001, but didn’t become an annual event until the 2004 season. Then, in 2006, the event made its move to Orleans Arena, where it has been played annually since. The Cincinnati Bearcats went 4-0 in 2001 to win the first edition of the event.

While the format has changed over the years, the current split-bracket format came into play back in 2006, though the visitor’s bracket didn’t exist then due to a lower number of teams participating in the event.

Last season, the USC Trojans were the only team in the field who had more wins than losses in the previous season (2015-16). USC went on to win last year’s event over the Wyoming Cowboys in the finals.


2017 Field

Duquesne Dukes, San Francisco Dons, Southern Illinois Salukis, and Nevada Wolfpack

The 2017 field for the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic is an intriguing one. We have one team who is expected win their conference title, one team who is a sleeper in their respective conference, one team who has a few question marks surrounding the team heading into the season, and one team who made arguably the best coaching hire of the off-season.

Up first, the Nevada Wolfpack are widely considered as the favourite to win the Mountain West Conference. While three of us at College Court Report had differing opinions as to who would win the conference title, there’s no disputing the talent that Eric Musselman and the Wolfpack have at their disposal this season.

The Wolfpack have been active on the transfer market over the past two seasons. Transfers Caleb and Cody Martin are eligible this season, and will patrol the front court alongside returnees Elijah Foster and Jordan Caroline. The flexibility of Caroline allows Musselman to use him in both the back court and on the wing to spread out the offense.

On the back end, the Wolfpack boast a rotation that features Lindsey DrewHallice CookeJosh Hall, and Kendall Stephens. They have big, active guards who can shoot the ball and some can finish at the rim.


If things couldn’t get any better for the Wolfpack, they added some of the top transfers on the market to boost their stock for the 2018-19 season. The likes of Nisre Zouzoua, Jazz Johnson, Corey Henson, Tre’Shawn Thurman, and Marcel Pettway will all join the fray next season.

That’s a talented group.


Their toughest opponent during the two-day event may very well be the San Francisco Dons. The Dons and Wolfpack square off in the late game on December 23rd, and it will be the marquee game of the entire event.

Sophomore guard Charles Minlend is looking to build off a strong freshman campaign from a season ago, where he averaged 10.0 points and 2.1 rebounds per contest. At 6’4”, he brings size to the back court for the Dons. Minlend can shoot the ball well, and will look to take on an expanded role this season.

Minlend and Chase Foster (10.1 ppg) are the top two scorers back from a San Francisco team that went 20-13 overall, and earned a spot in the 2017 College Basketball Invitational. Look for the Dons to turn some heads in West Coast Conference play.


Following the 2016-17 season, the Duquesne Dukes found themselves looking for a new head coach. They made one of the biggest, and best, coaching moves of the off-season when they landed Keith Dambrot from the Akron Zips.

On the transfer market, the Dukes were hit hard before the hiring of Dambrot. Duquesne lost the likes of Canadian forward Isiaha Mike, guard Spencer Littleson, and Nakye Sanders. However, they picked up steam and landed commitments from both Frankie and Michael Hughes from the Missouri Tigers, and Marcus Weathers from the Miami (OH) Redhawks, among others.

Arguably their biggest victory in terms of player personnel was holding onto star guard Mike Lewis II. In his first season in the NCAA last season, Lewis led the Dukes in scoring with an average of 14.1 points per contest. Fifth-year senior Rene Castro-Caneddy also returns in the back court, and the Dukes have a strong one-two punch.

Duquesne is a year or two away from contending in the Atlantic 10 Conference, but they are trending in the right direction with Dambrot leading the way.


Lastly, the Southern Illinois Salukis have some question marks as the 2017-18 season quickly approaches.

While the Salukis finished third in the Missouri Valley Conference a season ago, several of their key players have moved on to the next chapters in their careers. Both Mike Rodriguez and Sean O’Brien have moved on, both of whom finished 1-2 in scoring for the Salukis.

On the surface, many would expect the Salukis to take a step back this season, and that may very well be possible. However, if players like Thik Bol (9.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.3 bpg) and Armon Fletcher (11.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg) step up and take on expanded roles early in the season, then there’s no reason why Southern Illinois can’t finish as a top-half team in the conference once more in 2017-18.


2017 Match-Ups

First Day (December 22nd, 2017)

San Francisco Dons v. Duquesne Dukes
Southern Illinois Salukis v. Nevada Wolfpack

Second Day (December 23rd, 2017)

Southern Illinois Salukis v. Duquesne Dukes
San Francisco Dons v. Nevada Wolfpack


Projections

San Francisco v. Duquesne
Winner: San Francisco Dons

Southern Illinois v. Nevada
Winner: Nevada Wolfpack


Southern Illinois v. Duquesne
Winner: Duquesne Dukes

San Francisco v. Nevada
Winner: Nevada Wolfpack

– T. Bennett