The Maui Invitational is known for having one of the best fields of any MTE (multi-team event) in the country. This year, it may very well have the best field of any MTE ever. Highlighted by four top-10 teams, a top-15 team, and a handful of traditional powerhouses, this tournament will be a three-game gauntlet no matter where you end up in the bracket. Luckily for Kansas basketball, they drew Chaminade in the first round.
If the Silverswords have one advantage as the yearly host of this tournament, it’s that they don’t have the long flight to Hawaii that the rest of the field has. That advantage seemed to play a factor in the early going of the opening-round matchup.
The Jayhawks had flashes of going on a big run and taking control like everyone expected, but Chaminade stayed close for nearly the entire first half. A Scott Ator layup cut the lead to five with just over six minutes to go in the first period. A 14-7 run to end the half gave Kansas basketball a bit of breathing room at the break, and that would end up being all they needed.
The lead ballooned to 22 at the under 12 timeout, with Kevin McCullar and Hunter Dickinson accounting for 17 of the 23 points in that stretch. From then on, the lead never got below 16 points. Nicolas Timberlake finished a breakaway dunk with 12 seconds left, giving KU their biggest lead of the game at 27.
Dickinson dominated a much smaller opponent once again, finishing the night with 31 points on 15-18 shooting, along with 11 rebounds. McCullar posted his second consecutive triple-double (22 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) to become the first Jayhawk ever (since such stats have been tracked) with back-to-back triple-doubles.
Next up for the Jayhawks is No. 4 Marquette, who needed a late 3-pointer to fend off UCLA in their opening-round win. The Golden Eagles may finally have a way of slowing down Dickinson in the form of 6-foot-11 senior Oso Ighodaro. Add in a couple of high-scoring guards, and Marquette will certainly be a stout test for a Kansas basketball team lacking depth.
If you plan on watching the game tonight, you might want to grab a few cups of coffee or energy drinks. Tip-off isn’t scheduled until 9:30 local time, which will be pushed back due if and when the Tennessee/Purdue game runs late.