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Playing off the strength of its run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, West Virginia now appears poised to host one of the opening rounds of a prestigious preseason tournament.

The Guardians Classic, which consists of 16 teams playing in a mini-tournament at four regional sites, will reportedly include West Virginia, Kentucky, Iowa and Texas as the host schools of its 2005 event.

Each of those institutions are slated to host three other teams for a four-game bracket of contests on Nov. 14 and 15. The winners of the first pair of games will square off for the right to go to the semifinals of the tournament, while the losers will face each other in a consolation contest. The winners of the regions will then meet in Kansas City, Mo., a week later for the semifinals and finals on Nov. 21 and 22.

The Guardians Classic is run by the Gazelle Group, which also operates four other preseason invitationals, including the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. WVU officials confirmed that talks have taken place with the Gazelle Group as well as with several other groups that operate preseason events,but emphasized that no contracts have been signed yet. The entire field of 16 has not yet been set either, but other sources close to the situation confirmed that West Virginia is slated to be one of the host schools.

Last year's Guardians Classic was won by Creighton, which registered a 65-63 overtime win over Ohio State in the final. Missouri and Houston also participated in last year's field, which included twelve teams as opposed to the 16-team field slated for this fall.

The Guardians Classic promotes the National Association of Basketball Coaches' Guardians of the Game program, dedicated to recognizing the role coaches play in the lives of student-athletes and their communities. The Classic is an "exempt" tournament, meaning that the games played by the participation schools count as only one game of their NCAA-mandated maximum of 27.


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