Eight teams will be competing for the third annual Cayman Islands Classic championship on Monday, but only one will get to add its name to the young tourney’s honour roll.
Cincinnati won the tournament title in its first year of existence, and Creighton edged No. 16 Clemson to take the championship last year. The teams participating in this year’s tournament come from disparate regions and conferences, and they all have an interesting story to tell.
The gymnasium at John Gray High School will host all of the games, and the championship will be played on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Ahead of the Classic, a few teams had games to play after press time on Thursday; all records are accurate as of that morning.
Colorado St. (3-2) vs. New Mexico St. (2-2) – 11am
New Mexico St. has been to the postseason NCAA tournament in four of the last five years, while Colorado St. has qualified for March Madness twice in the 15 years.
Both teams have already lined up against top-notch opponents, with Colorado St. losing to No. 1 Duke earlier this month and New Mexico St. losing against No. 14 Arizona last week.
New Mexico St. was chosen as the top team in the Western Athletic Conference in a preseason poll, and two Aggies – Terrell Brown and Trevelin Queen – were named to the preseason All-WAC first team.
Colorado St. forward Nico Carvacho was named to the Mountain West Conference first team in preseason rankings.
Loyola University Chicago (3-2) vs. South Florida (1-2) – 1:30pm
Loyola is still running off the adrenaline of an unexpected Final Four run in 2018, and junior Cameron Krutwig has been named as the preseason Player of the Year in the Missouri Valley Conference.
South Florida, meanwhile, won the 2019 postseason College Basketball Invitational championship and is looking to return to March Madness for the first time since 2012.
The two teams have one opponent in common – Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis – this season. Loyola beat IUPUI 85-62 on Wednesday, while South Florida lost to IUPUI 70-53 earlier in the month.
George Mason (5-0) vs. Old Dominion (3-2) – 5pm
George Mason and Old Dominion have played two common opponents – James Madison and Loyola Maryland – in the early going. George Mason has wins over both of those teams, while Old Dominion has beaten James Madison and lost to Loyola.
Old Dominion, the defending Conference USA champions, was tabbed to finish fourth in the preseason poll, and guard Xavier Green was named to the preseason all-conference first team.
George Mason is fighting to get back to the postseason NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. Standout guard Justin Kier has been sidelined this year due to an injured foot.
Washington St. (2-1) vs. Nebraska (1-2) – 7pm
These two programmes are still trying to find their footing. Nebraska, coached by former NBA player Fred Hoiberg, has advanced to the NCAA postseason tournament just once since 2000. Washington State has made it to the tourney twice in that span.
Washington State sophomore C.J. Elleby was named to the preseason All-Conference team and will play alongside DJ Rodman, the son of NBA Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman. Hoiberg has his work cut out for him. Nebraska has just one player returning that saw action last season.