Another college hoops season is slowly creeping upon us as the 2022-23 will tip-off in about three months. Early season tournaments have historically been a way the NCAA has announced the start of the college basketball campaign and this year is no different with three events slated to commence on Nov. 11. I took a look at the Rainbow Clasdic last week, and now will examine the Continental Tire Main Event.
The Continental Tire Main Event enters its ninth year of existence this season. The 2022 event consists of six teams with the semifinals and finals slated to take place November 18 and 20 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Each team plays three games.
The semifinals and finals are the headline contests for the classic as those games are set and feature four power conference squads. Both the winners and losers of the semifinals will play on championship day.
Semifinal Game 1 pits 2021 national champions Baylor Bears against 2019 national champs Virginia Cavaliers. The other semi is Illinois vs. UCLA. Norfolk State and Monmouth are the other two competitors.
Norfolk State will face Baylor (Nov. 11) and UCLA (Nov. 14) on the road. Meanwhile, Monmouth will visit Virginia (Nov. 11) and Illinois (Nov. 14). Monmouth will host Norfolk State to conclude their involvement in the tournament.
Baylor is coming off back-to-back Big 12 regular season titles for the first time in over 70 years. The Bears return three starters from a team that went 27-7 overall and 14-3 in conference this past season. BU has reached the NCAA Tournament three straight seasons, which is one fewer than the most consecutive times in program history.
Second team all conference selection Adam Flagler and reserve guard LJ Cryer are fantastic shooters while big men Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Flo Thamba are excellent rebounders. Super talented sophomore forward Kendall Brown also returns and is poised to have a breakout season.Coach Scott Drew brought in a top 40 recruiting class featuring five-star 2022 guard Keyonte George as well as WVU transfer, Jalen Bridges.
Mick Cronin has done a fantastic job in making the Bruins relevant again. UCLA has improved its win total overall and in conference play in each of Cronin’s first three seasons, including going 28-7 and 14-4 in Pac-12 play.
All-Pac 12 choices Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jawuez Jr. are the Bruins top returnees. Reserve Jaylen Clark is extremely athletic and showed drastic improvement in his second season, averaging nearly seven points and four boards in 18 minutes of action. The Bruins also have a top 20 recruiting class with six incoming freshmen, led by five-star recruits Amari Bailey and Adem Bona.
Virginia is coming off a disappointing 21-14 season where the Cavaliers wound up in the quarterfinals. The Hoos finished sixth in the ACC with a 12-8 record, their worst league record under Tony Bennett since 2012-13.
Bennett will have a veteran-laden team as the Cavaliers return their top-6 scorers. Jayden Gardner (15.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG), Armaan Franklin (11.1 PPG) and Kihei Clark (10.0 PPG, 4.4 APG) averaged double-figures last year. The Cavs brought in grad transfer Ben Vander Plas, a 2021-22 All-MAC first team selection and four freshmen as part of his 2022 recruiting class.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois has won at least 20 games in each of the last three years, marking the first time the Illini have done that since 2008-20011. However, the Illini will have a totally different look as they return just five letter winners from last year. . Coach Brad Underwood did bring in transfers Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech), Dain Dainja (Baylor) and Matthew Mayer (Baylor) along with four freshmen, who are expected to make an impact.
This is a fantastic preseason tuneup tournament with the participants accounting for three finak gpur appearances and two national championships. I like the Bears to claim the Main Event crown though their semifinal contest against the Cavaliers should be entertaining as both squads are traditionally terrific defensively under their current coaches. While Vander Plas is a terrific addition upfront for Virginia, BU is more explosive offensively and more physical and athletically gifted in the frontcourt.
I believe UCLA has the experience advantage against Illinois and should advance to face Baylor in the championship game. I’ll take Virginia over Illinois in the consolation game.