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Mon, 21 Nov 2011 10:09 PM EST

that the NBA strike has effectively ended the 2011-2012 season before it started, fans are once again casting their eyes towards college basketball to get their fix. And when it comes to a sensational backdrop for a basketball tournament, it doesn’t get much better than the Maui Invitational. NFL odds

As a competition known for stunning tropical scenery and deep fields, the Maui Invitational, which is held at the picturesque Lahaina Civic Center, has established itself as the top holiday hoops event with seven teams coming off NCAA Tournament appearances and a field that’s combined for 20 national championships.

After a mediocre field in 2009, the Maui Invitational was back in top form for 2010 with a collection of talent including much of college basketball’s best programs and coaches. NFL spreads

Connecticut won the title with a win that was a preview to the Huskies’ national title in Houston.

This year’s Invitational has so much talent it promises to be even hotter.

There’s No. 6 Duke, the four-time Maui champions who are 12-0 under Krzyzewski at the tournament. No. 12 Kansas, a three-time NCAA champion, is back in Maui for the first time since 2005 with a talented but inexperienced team. No. 17 Michigan, which last won a national championship in 1989, returns to Maui after a 13-year absence with a team that brought the buzz back to their program in 2010. UCLA has the deepest resume of the group, with 11 national titles and the 2006 Maui title, but is coming to Maui reeling from unexpected back to back losses in their first two games of the season.

The list of coaches is also impressive.

Krzyzewski has won four national titles and just last week won game No. 903 to become the winningest Division I men’s coach. Bill Self has won 83 percent of his games in nine seasons in Lawrence. Howland took UCLA to the Final Four three straight seasons.

With Michigan’s John Beilein, Georgetown’s John Thompson III and Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin, six of the eight coaches have combined to win over 2,600 games.

The roster of players is also impressive and includes six on the preseason Wooden Award watch list: Will Barton and Joe Jackson of Memphis, UCLA’s Joshua Smith and Reeves Nelson, Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. and Thomas Robinson of Kansas.

Duke has the Plumlee brothers, Seth Curry and Austin Rivers, their top freshmen for this season. Georgetown returns with a pair of good scorers in Hollis Thompson and senior guard Jason Clark, and Tennessee has five players averaging double figures in its first season under Martin, formerly of Missouri State.

With so many good teams, there are no real letups, and no chances for teams to coast into the next round.

The tournament starts Monday morning with Michigan against Memphis in a matchup of Top 25 teams. Duke opens with Tennessee, while Kansas and Georgetown play each other in the first round. And UCLA doesn’t look to have an easy time of it with upset-specialist Chaminade.

If college basketball can stay on this trajectory, with talent and action to spare, it’s likely that fans won’t even miss the NBA season.


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