With the way NCAA rules are written, teams are allowed to play an additional three extra games in the case of a so-called “Exempt tournament”. As a result of this, the Maui Invitational and Great Alaska Shootout1 have since exploded into dozens of tournaments with almost every Division I team participating. Ultimately, the bigger name tournaments do well and have plenty of good matchups, but some of the other ones? Woof. We’re talking fewer than 100 in attendance for some of these games.
So what if, for one year, we made the tournaments more interesting? Why not throw every team with a common nickname into an early season tournament, so we can find out who definitively are the best Bulldogs, Eagles, or Wildcats of Division I?
We’ll go in reverse alphabetical order because I’m weird like that, plus the Wildcat Wildcard is a good starter:
The Wildcat Wildcard – Man this looks like a legitimate early season tournament. You have a handful of really good teams, a strong mid major, and then some fluff to fill out the three game requirement. Abilene Christian vs New Hampshire and Weber State vs Bethune-Cookman could take place on campus sites, but the tournament itself felt like it belonged in Vegas.
The Trojan War – A simple three team tournament that effectively just is a USC OOC game with a play-in matchup. Makes no sense to have it in a neutral site at all, so we’ll start off in Troy as the Trojans take on the Trojans for the right to meet the Trojans.
The Terrier Triangle – This one is like a real discount version of the Trojan war, where at least that had a Power Five team. This one? Not so much. Wofford gets the bye this year due to stronger performance but this one won’t be drawing a lot of attention from neutral fans.
The Sparty Showdown – An elaborate way for Michigan State to get two more OOC wins, with an outside chance of UNC-Greensboro holding their own in the championship.
The Redhawk Roundball Classic – This one, again, seems like not much to offer, with SE Missouri State playing Miami of Ohio for the right to play in the 999 seat arena of the Seattle Redhawks. Perhaps we just throw the whole thing in Seattle and make it a Round Robin Redhawk Roundball Classic
The Ram Rundown – A decent pool, with regards to a mid-major bracket like this. Feels like Brooklyn is the obvious home here for a “not too mainstream but still good” tournament. Rhode Island would be the favorites but don’t sleep on VCU.
The Pirate Playoff – Another three teamer, this one has a decent mid-major feel to it, culminating in a game at the Pru.
The Panther Paradise Classic – Now we’re talking, an eight team tournament in Hawaii. Only problem? Pitt is a one seed. Panthers are not very good at basketball, it seems.
The Owl Opener – Another small-ish tournament with a good mid-major feel. I threw this one in Brooklyn too, why not.
The N-I-Tiger – The second premier tournament we have, featuring three SEC teams, a talented Memphis team, and Clemson. Some interesting mid-majors to watch (Pacific, Princeton) and some good semi-final matchups. I’m all in. It only makes sense that this would take place in Madison Square Garden.
Mountaineer Madness – It’s yet another three team, this one with one major program and two also-rans. The title should be WVU’s, but App State is known for their upsets.
The Lion Invitational – With the nickname you’d feel they had stronger teams but this one is a bit of a bust as it goes for a four team tournament. Throw this in New Orleans and everyone will forget the basketball anyway.
The Jaguar Joust – An absolutely wretched opening game pitting two really bad teams against one another with the hopes of flying off to Indianapolis to be stomped by a mediocre IUPUI team. Maybe this whole nickname thing wasn’t a great idea.
The Husky Main Event – A decent matchup for a five team tourney, with Washington and UConn set up to take aim at one another in the final. Added bonus would be watching Northern Illinois, the official rival school of AMSTS2 getting stomped by the Southland’s finest in Houston Baptist.
The Hornet Hookup – OK, this is legitimately the worst tournament ever thought up in the history of NCAA tournaments. Delaware State and Alabama State are horrible teams. Sacramento State is the 1 seed and they finished last year 313 out of 351 teams in the AMSTS Computer Rankings. Woof.
The Highlander Belfast Classic – Not far behind the Hornet hookup, this is another bad matchup. But with the teams being the Highlanders, it only made sense to repurpose the Belfast Classic for the name3
The Hawk Showcase – A few years ago this would’ve been a more interesting tournament than it would be today. Even still, for a regional tournament for teams up and down the east coast, you could do a lot worse. Or maybe even a lot better.
The Great Cougar Battle 4 Atlantis – Oooh baby, a decent six team tournament with some strong mid majors, some big-ish top line programs, and just enough entertainment to get me to watch in lieu of paying attention to the inlaws over Thanksgiving. The only catch? We’re putting it in that damn ballroom at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas.
The Eagle Super Invitational – Now this is a sexy bracket. We’ve got a sub-group, the Golden Eagle bracket, with a handful of decent teams, but they’ll play in to the main bracket, which is for the most part full of mid-majors. Lots of elements at play here with regards to the Golden Eagle / Regular Eagle division as well as the number of decent-but-not-well-known programs, this one would fly under the radar but provide for some good basketball.
Cowboy Crossover – Give Oklahoma State a “neutral site” game in Oklahoma City to face off against the winner of Wyoming/McNeese. The real plot twist would be in making everyone play up in Laramie.
Bulldog Invitational – This one belongs on Maui. Clearly the best selection of programs from top to bottom… well, maybe not bottom. Zags, Butler, Georgia, Mississippi State as the top four, and some decent mid-majors, this thing sounds like the Maui Invitational already. Get your Hawaiian shirt for Uga ready, Georgia.
The Bronco/Bronc Shootout – In the spirit of the America’s Cup, this one will change names when Rider holds the title to the Bronc Shootout. Boise, Santa Clara, and WMU will all try to earn the O in a simple four team head to head out west.
The Bobcat Big Apple Challenge – When Quinnipiac is your overall number one seed, you know the tournament field isn’t too strong, considering it’s not hockey. This is one that feels like the biggest stretch due to the geography involved for many of these schools.
The Bison Shootaround – Charleston gets a major downgrade in tournaments hosted by only getting the four Bison of Division I. Sorry, Charleston. But you’ve already been spoiled by being the smallest county in America with three Division I basketball programs, so I’m sure you’ll get over it.
The Bearcat Blitz – Another opportunity to change names if SHSU ever takes the title, which feels unlikely. Cincinnati seems like they should have this one on lockdown for quite a long time. Yep, I’m sleeping on Binghamton.
Bearidise Jam – For the pun alone this one is good, even if the teams aren’t. Baylor and Cal being the only big name programs, with Cal’s basketball program leaving a bit to be desired. This one won’t ever be a huge draw for TV audiences, but hey, it’s an excuse to go to the Virgin Islands for boosters.
Aggie Invitational – Our last one is a underrated five team tournament with three good teams and two very bad teams. Throw it out west to satisfy the geography and everyone wins, even TV audiences.
With that, I make one last request to tournament organizers out there: just sacrifice the TV revenue for one year and make this a thing. We can settle who the best of every team nickname is (surely Central Connecticut and Duke could just play a one game matchup, same goes for Long Beach and Charlotte and all the other two team pairs), and put this all to bed.
Otherwise we might be stuck with 150 fans in Arlington Texas wondering why they’re watching UC-Davis play Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, like we did last week.