Cal Men’s Basketball Gets Hawaiian Trip in 2017


The Cal Golden Bears men’s basketball team enters the 2015-2016 season with high hopes, and the season kicks off on Friday when they match up with the Rice Owls. But looking to the future (the fairly distant future), Cal Men’s Basketball has a trip to Hawaii on the horizon, in 2017 for the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

In the 2017 tournament, Cal will join the host school, Chaminade University, based in Honolulu, as well as the LSU Tigers, the  Marquette Golden Eagles, the Michigan Wolverines, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the VCU Rams, and the Wichita State Shockers in the Championship round.

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Six of the eight teams in the 2017 field are ranked in the preseason AP polls, led by Wichita State, who is ranked 10th. The Cal Bears are next, and, at 14th, are ranked in the preseason for the first time in five years. After that, Notre Dame is 19th, LSU is 21st, and Michigan holds the final spot in the top-25.

Cal has been propelled by a strong recruiting class last year, as freshmen Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, and Roman Davis are all part of the Bears this year. Their recruiting class was ranked fifth by ESPN. LSU and Marquette both had top-10 classes, as well.

Since the tournament’s inception in 1984, just one of the eight listed teams have won the whole thing, as Michigan was the last team standing in 1985 and 1988. After winning the tournament in 1988, the Wolverines would win the NCAA Championship in 1989.

Cal has taken part in the Maui Invitational twice in the past, in 1996 and 2013. In 1996, the unranked Cal Bears registered a win over the 25th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes, but eventually fell to the tournament champion, the Kansas Jayhawks. In 2013, they suffered a similar fate, as they beat the Arkansas Razorbacks in the quarterfinals, but fell in the semifinals to the Syracuse Orange, the eventual tournament champions.

The Maui Invitational has had some championship ties in the past. The Duke Blue Devils have twice won the NCAA Championship and the Maui Invitational at the start of the next season (1992 and 2001). The North Carolina Tar Heels have twice won the Maui Invitational to start a season, and then won the NCAA Championship at the end of the season (2004-2005, and 2008-2009). The UConn Huskies won the Maui Invitational in 2010, and then won the NCAA Championship to conclude the season in 2011.

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While the invitation in 2017 is exciting, the Bears, and their fans, have plenty of reason to be excited for this season as well. The team, on paper, looks as talented as they have in years, and the nation is taking notice. They are ranked 14th in the preseason polls, and four ESPN writers, out of a panel of 28, picked the Bears to reach the Final Four this year, which they haven’t reached since 1960.

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The four writers, Cory Alexander, C.L. Brown, Jeff Goodman, and Andy Katz, all selected the Golden Bears as one their last four teams standing, although none of them picked Cal to win it all. Alexander and Katz both picked Kansas, Brown picked Maryland, and Goodman took Michigan State.

The Cal Bears open the season, hosting Rice at Haas Pavilion, on Friday night.