MAUI, HI – The 2017 Maui Jim Maui Invitational Tournament is set to begin on November 20th, 2017 with the Marquette Golden Eagles taking on the VCU Rams (VCU) in the opening game at 2:30 PM EST.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will have to wait until 9:30 PM EST to play their first game of the tournament, as they take on the Division II Chaminade Silverswords.
The other teams that join Notre Dame in their side of the bracket are the LSU Tigers and Michigan Wolverines, who will be playing their opening game against each other at he conclusion of the Irish and Silverswords game. Win or lose, the Fighting Irish will either take on the likes of the Tigers or the Wolverines.
While Notre Dame, Chaminade, LSU, and Michigan highlight the bottom portion of the bracket; Marquette, VCU, Wichita State and California highlight the top, with the Shockers taking on the Bears after Marquette and VCU battle it out.
Before Notre Dame gets started in Maui, we will break down each opponent that join Notre Dame in the bottom part of the bracket.
The Chaminade Silverswords are 2-0 to start their season, with wins over the Alaska Nanooks and the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves, a win they notched almost 10 days ago.
The Silverswords have an experienced team, made up of a variety of guys who have played junior college and Division I basketball before landing at Chaminade. Through two games, Chaminade have seen four players average double-digit points per game.
Chaminade is led by Austin Pope, who averaged 12.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks in 33.0 minutes per game last season. While he is not averaging double-digit figures yet in 2017-18, with 9.5 points per game, the 6’6” guard is very versatile, recording seven boards and four assists through two games. In Pope’s last game, he recorded 12 points, four blocks, five assists and six rebounds.
Braden Koelliker is another name to look out for during Tuesday night’s matchup between the Irish and the Silverswords. The former Colorado State Ram checks in at 6’8”, and is averaging 11 points and four rebounds through two games.
Guard Justin Bridges has been the best shooter on the Silverswords so far, going 5-7 in both games so far this season (71.4%) and is averaging 12 points and three assists per game. This is a big improvement thus far from the senior, who only averaged four points per game last year when playing in 23 games.
LSU is one of two teams that Notre Dame could face Tuesday night, who are under new leadership with Will Wade taking over the program after his two year head coaching stint at VCU. Wade led the Rams to a 51-20 record, with two NCAA bids and an Atlantic 10 regular season title.
He is seen as a great recruiter, and has done just that as he has to replaced eight players gone due to transfer, graduation or suspension. Of the players he has attracted to Baton Rouge are three four star recruits in Tremont Waters (rank: #43), Brandon Rachal (rank #127), and Galen Alexander (rank: #136).
The Tigers also gained a few transfer prospects in Daryl Edwards (Northwest Florida State College Raiders), Jeremy Combs (North Texas Mean Green), and Randy Onwuasor (Southern Utah Thunderbirds).
Through two games of the 2017-18 season, the LSU Tigers are 2-0 after easy wins against the Alcorn State Braves, 99-59, and the Samford Bulldogs, 105-86.
Though the Tigers have lost a variety of players, they have seen great production from their newcomers and returnees, with nine players averaging eight or more points per game through their first two games.
From the nine players averaging eight or more points per game, leading the way are LSU’s two top freshman signings in Waters, who leads the team in average points, assists and steals per game with 16 points, seven assists and three steals; while Brandon Rachal is contributing eight points, 4.5 rebounds and two assist per game.
Brandon Sampson is the unsung leader of the Tigers, averaging the second most points on the team at 15, and leading in rebounds per game with 6.5. The junior is also tied for second on the team in assists with Skylar Mays, at 3.5 per game, with Mays contributing 13.5 points per game as well.
LSU was predicted to in the pre-season to finish 14th in the SEC and are still in rebuild mode but will still pose a great challenge to Michigan and Notre Dame should the Irish take on the Tigers.
The Michigan Wolverines are the second team that Notre Dame might have to face, depending on Monday’s results.
The last time Notre Dame and Michigan met was during the 2015 NCAA Tournament, a game in which the Irish eliminated the Wolverines in the opening round.
Michigan is off to a 3-0 start, after wins against the North Florida Ospreys, the Central Michigan Chippewas, and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
They are led heavily by two seniors and two juniors, all of whom are averaging double digit figures per game and provide majority of the scoring for the Wolverines.
Duncan Robinson leads the team in points per game at 14.3, with Moritz Wagner (13.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg), Charles Matthews (13 points, 3.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1,3 spg), and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3 apg, 1 spg) all close behind him.
After these players, the Wolverines see a major drop off in production, as the next top scorers, the sophomore class, are only contributing three to five points per game.
The Wolverines do not have great depth and will need guys to step up as they take on Power Five teams.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
No injuries or news to report on for the Fighting Irish, who have arrived safely in Maui and as mentioned before, will play their first game on November 20th at 9:30 PM EST, against the Chaminade Silverswords.
This tournament will give a great indication as to where this Irish team measure up, considering they have not faced any notable opponents who have given them a true test to prove their #13 ranking.
I am curious to see how they handle teams like Michigan/LSU and even more curious as to how they would matchup against a top 10 national team in Wichita State, should they meet each other at any point in the tournament.
Notre Dame has been good in the non-conference portion of their schedule in recent years. Let’s see if they can replicate these results.
– R. Scarfone