Texas guard Matt Coleman made the winning shot of the Maui Invitational. (Photo by Brian Spurlock/Camping World Maui Invitational)
By KEVIN McNAMARA
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Every team in this Maui Invitational appears to own legitimate hopes of ending its season in the NCAA Tournament. Of course that thought seems like a long ways away, for more reasons than ever this year.
The threat of getting shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic is very real and one that literally follows the players and coaches around on a daily basis. All eight teams in Asheville stayed at the same hotel, the Renaissance, and no other guests were booked to prepare a `bubble-like’ existence. Everybody was tested every day, for five consecutive days, with results transported to a facility out of Asheville and turned around within hours.
Those protocols may be similar to what the NCAA has in mind for its tournament in March. Talks are being finalized to bring all 68 teams to one city – Indianapolis is the favorite – and play games in a handful of arenas and gyms. Indy would feature Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Pacers’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the scheduled site of the Final Four, Lucas Oil Stadium.
“I think there’s always hope,” said Stanford coach Jerod Haase, “and I think realistically there’s a lot of concerns as well. I know there’s a lot of people working on it, trying to find solutions, trying to give opportunity and a path for everybody to get to that point, but the question is, is there hope? I would say yes. And I think this (Maui) tournament was run very, very well. I think they handled everything well and pulled it off and I think that does give people hope, including myself.”
Earlier in the week Providence’s Ed Cooley echoed much of what Haase said. Cooley pointed out that while many tournaments around the country were cancelled because programs either couldn’t agree on testing protocols or sustained positive tests and could not play, all eight participants in Asheville came together and enjoyed a productive event.
“This is the best tournament in all of America, it’s the only tournament that has stayed true to what we try to do,” Cooley said. “The teams were healthy. So you got to give the tournament committee a lot of credit for getting us here, having it well organized, having testing every day. I don’t think that can go without being written about because many of the other tournaments folded. I just wanted to make sure I said that because they deserve a lot of credit in what they’re doing for our players here and the coaches, and the referees who are important.”