1-2 matchup by Gonzaga, UCLA highlights hoops tournament party

This time of year is all about friends and family, turkey and pie and lots of football to take with you …

This time of year is all about friends and family, turkey and pie and lots of football to take up the day.

Rather make room for a little basketball too.

The rise of exempt tournaments over the last few years has turned Thanksgiving week into a reason to thank for some college hangouts. Almost every day overflows with tempting matchups, which not only serve as Top 25 shake-ups in the early part of the season, but which can act as resume builders as March rolls around.

Whether they take place in the Virgin Islands or the Bahamas, Mexico or somewhere across the United States, here is a look at some of the early season tournaments that should be a TV party for sports fans.


Could well grab the big one first: Top-ranked Gonzaga will face No. 2 UCLA in the Good Sam Empire Classic on Tuesday night in Las Vegas, a rematch of the exciting national semifinal won by the Bulldogs in overtime.

“I broke up last night and watched our UCLA match – they have literally their entire team back,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We are definitely completely different, and to Mick (Cronin)’s credit, they used it as a springboard. They play really confident and a lot like they played in the NCAA tournament.”

It will be the first time the Bruins have met the nation’s No. 1 team in the regular season since December 3, 2016, when they defeated top-ranked Kentucky in the Rupp Arena.

“Mick and I worked really hard to put this game together,” Few said. “We realized we have to do something like that because of West Coast basketball and we will continue to do so in the future. But to navigate this game with these high rankings, whether they are right or not – we’ll find out in February – it should be a fun night. “


One of the leading tournaments in the early season will be played on the mainland again due to COVID-19, with No. 12 Houston joining Oregon, Wisconsin and Butler in the Maui Invitational. The matches will be played in Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, after being played in Asheville, North Carolina, last season.


Seton Hall jumped into the Top 25 as No. 21 after beating the then No. 4 Michigan last week. The Pirates will join No. 23 in Florida and Ohio State in the main name of the Fort Myers tip-off at the Suncoast Credit Union Arena.


Yet another of the best early season tournaments is back after COVID-19 forced its cancellation. Battle 4 Atlantis features a series of big matches right from the start on Wednesday: No. 19 Auburn vs. No. 22 Uconn, Michigan State vs. Loyola-Chicago, Syracuse vs. Virginia Commonwealth, and Arizona State vs. No. 6 Baylor.


The long-running regular part of the New York City hoops scene is taking place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn these days. Nr. 25 Xavier takes on Iowa State and ninth-ranked Memphis meets Virginia Tech in the first round Wednesday night.


Nr. 24 in Southern California is not far behind when it meets Saint Joseph’s in the opening round of the Anaheim Convention Center on Thursday night. San Diego State takes on Georgetown the same night in the Wooden Legacy.


Fourth-ranked Kansas and No. 10 Alabama star in the ESPN Events Invitational, which begins Thursday at HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. The Jayhawks face North Texas, and Crimson Tide plays Iona in the first round, while Belmont takes on Drake and Dayton against Miami in the other two games.


Elsewhere in Florida, LSU plays Penn State, and Oregon State faces Wake Forest on Friday in the main group of the Emerald Coast Classic, hosted by Northwest Florida State College. The championship match is Saturday.


For more AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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