The Griffins are making their first appearance in the AdvoCare Invitational, coming off a 21-12 season in which they shared the MAAC regular season title. Canisius made its first appearance in the College Basketball Invitational, losing to Jacksonville State in the opening round. Junior guard Isaiah Reese, a Miami native, is the top returner in points (15.8 ppg), rebounds (5.8 rpg) and assists (4.7 apg). This will be the team’s first trip to Florida since a Jan. 2, 2003 visit to FIU.
The Cougars are only the second Colonial Athletic Association team to play in the AdvoCare Invitational (George Mason went 2-1 in 2008). Charleston returns three starters from last year’s 26-8 squad, which captured the CAA regular season and tournament titles and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999. The Cougars are led by pre-season all-conference honorees forward Jarrell Brantley and guard Grant Riller, an Orlando native. Riller averaged 18.6 points per game last season, while Brantley contributed 17.3 ppg and 7.1 rpg.
The Seminoles return to the AdvoCare Invitational for the first time since their championship run in 2009, when they edged Marquette, 57-56, in the final game. FSU returns seven of its top nine scorers from a team that narrowly lost to Michigan in the NCAA Elite Eight last March. Forward Phil Cofer (12.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and guard Terrance Mann (12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) were the top two scorers and rebounders last season. Head coach Leonard Hamilton is the school’s all-time wins leader and ranks eighth among all ACC coaches (305-208 record).
The Tigers are back in the AdvoCare Invitational for the second time, having gone 2-1 in the 2013 tournament. This year’s team is drawing Top 25 consideration, led by first-team All-SEC guard Tremont Watters, who averaged 15.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists as a freshman. Freshmen Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams (from Fort Myers, Fla.) are also expected to make an immediate impact as coach Will Wade begins his second season in Baton Rouge.
Like LSU, the Memphis Tigers were also in the 2013 AdvoCare Invitational, winning the trophy in a hard-fought championship over Oklahoma State. The big news in Memphis this season is the coaching debut of Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who takes over a program where he was a two-time All-American (1992 and 1993). Hardaway went on to be a four-time NBA all-star with the Orlando Magic, including the 1995 team that reached the NBA Finals. Senior guard Jeremiah Martin ranked second in the American Athletic Conference with 18.9 ppg a year ago.
Like LSU and Memphis, the Cowboys played in the 2013 edition of the AdvoCare Invitational, winning their first two games before falling to Memphis in the championship. OSU is coming off a 21-15 season in which it beat six top 25 teams and posted a school-record four wins over top 10 opponents. The Cowboys lost four of the top five scorers from that team, so second year coach Mike Boynton will look to some newcomers to contribute right away.
The Wildcats are the first defending national champion to visit Orlando in the 13 years of the AdvoCare Invitational. Head coach Jay Wright’s team rolled to a 36-4 record and blew past Michigan to win its second NCAA title in the last three years. While the top four scorers from that team have moved on to the NBA, Villanova does have experienced players such as Eric Paschall (10.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg in 38 starts) and Phil Booth (10.0 ppg in 31 starts). The Wildcats played in the 2007 version of the AdvoCare Invitational, falling to North Carolina State in the championship game.
The Blazers are coming off a 20-13 season, their third 20-win campaign in the last four years and sixth in the last 10 years. Conference USA all-freshman honoree Zack Bryant headlines five returnees to the squad. He started all 33 games last season and ranked second on the team with 13.6 ppg. Seniors Jalen Perry (7.5 ppg) and Lewis Sullivan (7.2 ppg) should see increased minutes this year. Robert Ehsan is in his third year as the Blazers’ head coach after serving four years as associate head coach.
HP Field House
700 South Victory Way
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