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A Final Four preview? Gonzaga headlines a loaded 2018 Maui Invitational field

Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) reacts after making a basket in front of his teammates forward Brandon Clarke (15) and forward Rui Hachimura (21) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Gonzaga won 94-71. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) reacts after making a basket in front of his teammates forward Brandon Clarke (15) and forward Rui Hachimura (21) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Gonzaga won 94-71. (AP Photo/Young Kwak) AP

The week of Thanksgiving is where the college basketball season really kicks off. You see teams across the country travel to exotic locales to face tougher opponents.

No tournament fits this more than the Maui Invitational. This eight-team, three-game gauntlet helps build tourney resumes and shakes up the rankings in the first third of the season. This year’s field is one of the best the tournament has had in recent memory.

It is a who’s who of college basketball powers, dynamic coaches and top stars. Each some of these matchups will feel like second round, sweet 16 and even Final Four showdowns.

You’ve got potentially six teams who could reach the NCAA tournament. Duke and Gonzaga are the class of the field, both teams ranked in the Top 25 of both polls. Should they play each other in Maui, it could be the first matchup of the season, with the other being in late March or early April, of course.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Teams like Arizona, San Diego State and Auburn could be a factor in this tournament as well as that one coming up next spring.

A closer look at the teams in the tournament:

Arizona Wildcats

2018 Record: 4-0

Head Coach: Sean Miller

2017-18 Record: 27-8 (14-4 Pac-12)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament-First Round loss to Buffalo (89-68)

Best Maui Invitational Finish: Champions-2014

Auburn Tigers

2018 Record: 4-0

Head Coach: Bruce Pearl

2017-18 Record: 26-7 (13-5 SEC)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament-Second Round loss to Clemson (84-53)

Best Maui Invitational Finish: First time in Maui Invitational

Duke Blue Devils

2018 Record: 4-0

Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

2017-18 Record: 29-8 (13-5 ACC)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament-Regional Final loss to Kansas (85-81)

Best Maui Invitational Finish: Champions-2011

Gonzaga Bulldogs

2018 Record: 4-0

Head Coach: Mark Few

2017-18 Record: 32-5 (15-1 WCC)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament-Sweet 16 loss to Florida State (75-60)

Best Maui Invitational Finish: Champions-2009

Illinois Fighting Illini

2018 Record: 1-2

Head Coach: Brad Underwood

2017-18 Record: 14-18 (4-14 Big Ten)

Postseason: None

Best Maui Invitational Finish: Champions-2012

Iowa State Cyclones

2018 Record: 3-1

Head Coach: Steve Prohm

2017-18 Record: 13-18 (4-14 Big 12)

Postseason: None

Best Maui Invitational Finish: Participant-1990

San Diego State Aztecs

2018 Record: 2-1

Head Coach: Brian Dutcher

2017-18 Record: 22-11 (11-7 Mountain West)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament-First Round loss to Houston (67-65)

Best Maui Invitational Finish: Second Place-2014

Xavier Musketeers

2018 Record: 2-2

Head Coach: Travis Steele

2017-18 Record: 29-6 (15-3 Big East)

Postseason: NCAA Tournament-Second Round loss to Florida State (75-70)

Best Maui Invitational Finish: First time in Maui Invitational



Tournament Schedule

Day 1

G1: Auburn-88 vs. Xavier-79 (Final-OT)

G2: Duke-90 vs. San Diego State-64 (Final)

G3: Arizona-71 vs. Iowa State-66 (6 PM on ESPNU)

G4: Gonzaga-84 vs. Illinois-78 (8:30 PM On ESPN2)

Day 2

G5: Xavier vs. SDSU (11:30 AM on ESPN2)

G6: Iowa State vs. Illinois (2:00 PM on ESPN2)

G7: Auburn vs. Duke (5:00 PM on ESPN)

G8: Arizona vs. Gonzaga (8:30 PM on ESPN)

Day 3

5th Place Game (11:30 AM on ESPN2)

Championship Game (2 PM on ESPN)

7th Place Game (6 PM on ESPNU)

3rd Place Game (8:30 PM on ESPN2)

Tournament Predictions

Semifinals

Duke vs. Auburn

Arizona vs. Gonzaga

Finals

Duke vs. Gonzaga

Winner

Duke

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