ESPNU Classic tourney to debut in Orlando

The NCAA opened the market once it got rid of restrictions on in-season tournaments.

Everyone is seemingly jumping in to form a tournament, from organizers to schools -- and now a television network.

ESPN Regional is getting into the mix with the likes of the Maui Invitational, the Great Alaska Shootout, the NCAA-owned and -operated NIT Season Tip-Off, the Coaches vs. Cancer, Guardians Classic, Las Vegas events, the Paradise Jam and the like.

ESPN Regional will debut the ESPNU Classic Thanksgiving weekend at the Disney Wide World Sports Complex in Orlando with headline teams Arkansas, Southern Illinois, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Minnesota and Montana joining Marist and Western Michigan in the eight-team, three-day event.

Each team will play three games Nov. 23, 24 and 26. Games will be on ESPN2 (nine games) and ESPNU (three). The two teams with the best record will meet in a championship game on Nov. 26 (the other six will play a game for a place). Southern Illinois is expected to be a favorite to win the Missouri Valley in 2007, while Arkansas, Virginia Tech and Montana should be in competition for a top half finish in their respective leagues and a potential NCAA berth.

The MAAC, of which Marist is a member, will be the sponsor of the tournament so that it could be sanctioned by the NCAA.

Last month, the NCAA got rid of the two-in-four rule, which limited teams to only two exempted tournaments in a four-year period. Now, teams can play in one of these multi-game, multi-team events every season, just not the same one more than once in a four-year period. Each tournament can have only one team from a conference.