For eight fairly prominent basketball teams, the road to March Madness will start in Cayman.
The Cayman Islands Classic is coming back for a second edition in November, and its eight-team field will feature four teams that qualified for the 2018 NCAA tournament.
Clemson, Creighton, Georgia State and St. Bonaventure all went to this season’s year-end tournament, and Akron, Boise State, Georgia and Illinois State will fill out the rest of the Cayman field.
“Excited is an understatement,” said Victor “Voot” O’Garro, one of the driving forces behind the tournament’s inception. “This is a better field than last year. Every year, we are getting better.”
Three teams from last year’s inaugural Cayman Islands Classic – Cincinnati, Buffalo and South Dakota State – qualified for March Madness, the nickname given to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Cincinnati was crowned the first champion of the Cayman Islands Classic and ultimately earned a No. 2 seed in the year-end tournament before losing in the second round. Buffalo, meanwhile, upset No. 4 seed Arizona but also lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Clemson did both of those teams one round better by beating New Mexico State and Auburn, advancing to the final round of 16 before falling to top seed Kansas. Kansas would ultimately go to the Final Four.
Creighton has gone to the year-end NCAA Tournament in all of the last five seasons, and Georgia State has managed a March Madness appearance in two of the last four years. St. Bonaventure, meanwhile, earned its first NCAA tournament win since 1970 by beating UCLA in its opening round game.
Boise State had a down year last year but has gone to the NCAA tournament three times since 2000. Akron has gone three times since 2007, and Illinois State last went to March Madness in 1998. Georgia, a former NCAA powerhouse, is trying to return to form under celebrated coach Tom Crean.
“Our tournament director started putting together this field at the end of the last tournament,” said Mr. O’Garro of the second field for the Cayman Islands Classic. “The public still does not understand college basketball. But you have people that do. I know that people who follow college basketball will know that four of the teams we have played in the tournament this year. And that’s a big thing.”
The Classic will be played again in the gym at John Gray High School.
Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell said in an official statement that the first edition of the tournament was a big success.
“We are excited to host the second year of this tournament in the Cayman Islands,“ Mr. Kirkconnell said as part of a press release. “Last year’s tournament was a great success with over 1,000 fans visiting our Islands, and the feedback received from the teams and visitors alike was extremely positive.
“The organizers are working hard to create an even more amazing experience for this year’s teams and visitors as they grace our shores to experience great basketball and a true Caymankind welcome.”