Maui Invitational Preview

The caliber of opponents in this year's tournament is comparable to the potential field in a regional bracket of the March Madness Tournament. Here is a closer look at the teams that Michigan State will be competing with this upcoming weekend.

This year the Maui Invitational is loaded with some of the best basketball programs in the Nation. The field is composed of six teams that have all won national championships in the past. The caliber of opponents in this year's tournament is comparable to the potential field in a regional bracket of the March Madness Tournament. Here is a closer look at the teams that Michigan State will be competing with this upcoming weekend.

Pre-season Rank: 10
Head Coach: Lute Olsen
Key Players: Hassan Adams (Guard), Mustafa Shakur (Point Guard), Ivan Radenovic (Forward)
Key Players Lost: Shanning Frye (Center), Salim Stoudamire (Guard)
2004-2005 Results: First place in PAC-10, Lost to Illinois in the Elite 8
2005-2006 Outlook: The Wildcats will have solid perimeter players this year. Led by senior guard Hassan Adams, the Wildcats will run the court well and play solid defense. Mustafa Shakur, junior point guard, will be one of the elite point guards in the nation this year and could have a break-out year for the Wildcats. The one question mark that will be surrounding Lute Olsen and the Wildcats will be their play in the post. After losing Shanning Frye to the NBA last year the Wildcats will be looking at some new names in the post this year. 6-foot-9 senior forward Isaiah Fox and 6-foot-10 junior center Kirk Walters will anchor the Wildcats down low this year. Like years in the past, the Wildcats will be an electrifying team that is fun to watch.

Pre-season Rank: (Not in Top 25)
Head Coach: Stan Heath
Key Players: Ronnie Brewer (Guard-Forward), Darian Townes (Center), Jonathon  Modica (Guard)
2004-2005 Results: Overall Record 18-12, finished fourth in the SEC WEST
2005-2006 Outlook: The pre-season favorite for SEC player of the year is Arkansas' Ronnie Brewer. The 6-foot-7 guard/forward will be accompanied by seven other players who also have starting experience. Stan Heath is in his fourth year as head coach at Arkansas and is looking to improve the Razorbacks to be a top contender in this year's SEC Conference. Last year was the first winning season that Heath enjoyed at Arkansas and is looking forward to starting this season off against some of the best teams in the country. With the depth of Arkansas and a prime time player like Brewer, Arkansas should not be overlooked in this tournament.

Pre-season Rank: (Not in Top 25)
Head Coach: Matt Mahar
Key players: Chris Reaves (Guard), Zack Whiting (Guard)
2004-2005 Results: Overall Record (16-11), finished fourth in the Pacific West Conference
2005-2006 Outlook: The Chaminade Swords return their two top scorers from last year. Chris Reaves averaged 16.5 ppg. and Zack Whiting averaged 14.5 ppg. Whiting also led the team in assists and steals. The Swords are not especially stacked up front and will have a hard time in this tournament matching up against some of the premiere big men in the country. The Swords will open against a tough Michigan State Spartans team and will play either the winner or loser of the Maryland/Gonzaga game in the second round.

Pre-season Rank: 3
Head Coach: Jim Calhoun
Key Players: Josh Boone (Forward-Center), Rashad Anderson (Guard-Forward), Rudy Gay Jr.(Forward)
Key Players Lost: Charlie Villanueva
2004-2005 Results: (23-8) Tied for first place in Big East, lost in second round of NCAA Tournament to N.C. State
2005-2006 Outlook: Despite losing 6-foot-9 power-forward Charlie Villanueva to the NBA, the Huskies once again will be dominant in the paint. Josh Boone, a 6-foot-10 junior forward, is among the best rebounders and shot blockers in the nation. Boone will be joined by two swingmen, Rashad Anderson and Rudy Gay Jr. UCONN will once again be one of the top teams in the country and they will be doing with a familiar formula, dominating the paint on both ends of the floor. UCONN will open up the tournament against Arkansas and should be a tough customer for whomever they run into along the way.

Pre-season Rank: 9
Head Coach: Mark Few
Key players: Adam Morrison (Forward), J.P. Batista (Forward), Derek Raivio (point guard)
Key players lost: Ronny Turiaf (Forward)
2004-2005 Results: Overall Record 26-5, first place in West Coast Conference, was eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by Texas Tech
2005-2006 Outlook: Gonzaga is ranked the highest it has ever been in the pre-season. They return four starters and their leading scorer from last year, Adam Morrison (6-foot-8 forward). Morrison is joined by point guard Derek Raivio, who has improved in the off-season as a more dangerous scorer. Their big threat in the post is J.P. Batista. Batista will have to pick up his play due to the loss of Ronny Turiaf. Gonzaga will once again be the heavy favorites to come out of the West Coast Conference, but they would like to prove to the country that they are one of the premiere teams in the nation here at the Maui Invitational.

Pre-season Rank: (Not in Top 25)
Head Coach: Bill Self
Key players: Christain Moody (Forward), C.J. Giles (Center), Jeff Hawkins (Guard)
Key players lost: Wayne Simeon (Forward), Aaron Miles (point guard), J.R. Giddens (Forward), Keith Langford (Guard)
2004-2005 Results: Overall Record 23-7, lost in first round of NCAA Tournament to Bucknell
2005-2006 Outlook: Yes if you did notice the long list of key players lost, the Jayhawks will be a new team this year with a lot of unfamiliar faces. Christain Moody is the only starter returning to this year's team which will force Bill Self to play a lot of young players. The Jayhawks will be going to center C.J. Giles (6-foot-10) in the post a lot this year. Giles and Moody will be the Jayhawks strength down low this year. Hawkins is two of three seniors on this very young Kansas team, and will be a key veteran in the backcourt. It might take a while for the new look Kansas Jayhawks to get in a rhythm playing together.

Pre-season Rank: 24
Head Coach: Gary Williams
Key players: Nik Caner-Medley (Forward), D.J. Strawberry (Guard), Ekene Ibekwe (Forward)
Key players lost: John Gilchrist (Guard)
2004-2005 Results: Overall Record 19-13, lost in NIT Semi-finals to South Carolina
2005-2006 Outlook: The Maryland Terrapins were hot and cold last year and didn't manage to get into the NCAA Tournament with an at large bid. The Terrapins will be without their go-to-guy, John Gilchrist, this year so players like Caner-Medley, Strawberry and Ibekwe will have to prove themselves as leaders this year. All three players have a lot of experience and are very well-rounded players. Maryland will be a good three point shooting team and once they decide who their playmaker will be down the stretch, this will be a very good basketball team.

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