When and where: Nov. 23-24 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas
Semifinal schedule for the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational
Nov. 23: Arizona State vs. Arkansas (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3); Creighton vs. Wisconsin (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Nov. 24: Third-place game (8 p.m. ET, ESPN3); championship game (11 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Initial thoughts: The bracket is lopsided. Creighton and Wisconsin are clearly the two best teams and this field wasn’t seeded correctly, in my opinion. ... Creighton has the star of the four-team event with rising junior Doug McDermott. McDermott will be the best player on the court in either game. ... Arizona State finally gets to put sophomore Jahii Carson on the national stage. He was held out last season due to academics. He’s expected to be eligible, which means the Sun Devils finally get their star recruit on the court. ... Wisconsin has a potential stud in freshman Sam Dekker, who will be a big-time scorer for the Badgers before his career is over. ... Arkansas has another offseason to get Mike Anderson’s fastest 40-minutes system. The Hogs were an erratic bunch in his first year. This will be a good test to see where they stand. ... Badgers fans traditionally travel well to Las Vegas. Creighton has a loyal following from Omaha as well. Don’t be surprised to see the second game with the most fans in the arena.
Matchup I can't wait to see: Well, the organizers apparently wanted to make sure the best game occurred in pitting Creighton against Wisconsin. The Bluejays have the more efficient offensive team, while the Badgers should be a more stingy defensive unit. Expect this game to be played tight and down to the final few possessions.
Potential matchup I'd like to see: It would be interesting to find out how McDermott handles a team that wants to push the tempo as much as Arkansas. McDermott will have to deal with plenty of quicker defensive teams throughout the season, but maybe not one as pestering as the Hogs. This would be a quality test for the Bluejays if Creighton can get past the Badgers.
Key players to watch
Jahii Carson, Arizona State: The Sun Devils struggled to shoot and score last season. Carson’s absence didn’t help. Coach Herb Sendek said Carson has done well in offseason workouts and has shown his quickness, leadership and scoring potential. The Sun Devils desperately need Carson to be a James Harden-type performer to help them climb out of the bottom of the conference.
Ryan Evans, Wisconsin: Evans is the classic Bo Ryan Badger. He continued to improve as he matured, got stronger and received more opportunities. Evans went from 2.8 points to 11 as his minutes increased 20-plus a game. He will never be a star, but he has a shot to be an All-Big Ten performer with his knack for making big-time buckets in opportune moments. He knows the Ryan system as well as any player on the team.
Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott averaged 22.9 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. He has found ways to score all over the court. He’s a potential preseason first-team All-American and national player of the year candidate. Enough said.
BJ Young, Arkansas: Kentucky freshman Antonio Davis dominated the headlines in the SEC. A top-three pick in Bradley Beal at Florida also got his share of attention. But Young had a fantastic freshman season for Arkansas that essentially got overlooked. He averaged 15.3 points and 2.3 assists a game. If the Hogs are to be a problem in the SEC, Young will be the reason.
Creighton over Arkansas: Wisconsin will be a tough out once the Big Ten hits, but the Bluejays should be the most experienced and ready team for an early-season, neutral-site tournament. Creighton will need this title more than any other team, too. The opportunities simply aren’t as plentiful for the Jays. This team won 29 games last season and lost one major player in Antoine Young. The rest of the crew came back for what should be another Missouri Valley Conference title season and a possible deeper run in the NCAA tournament, a campaign that will start with a Las Vegas Invitational title.
Who others are picking:
Eamonn Brennan: Wisconsin over Arkansas
Jason King: Creighton over Arkansas
Myron Medcalf: Wisconsin over Arkansas
Dana O'Neil: Creighton over Arkansas