For the sixth-time in the history of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, a school will be competing in the NCAA “final four” before participating in the fall at the annual in-season college basketball tournament on the Caribbean island as one of the eight teams in the mid-November event.
Coach Lon Kruger and his Oklahoma Sooners join Memphis (2008 “final four” participant playing the next November in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off), Villanova (2009), West Virginia (2010), Michigan (2013) and Connecticut (2014) as schools competing in the national semi-finals before playing seven months later in San Juan at the eight-school tournament organized and operated by ESPN Events.
Oklahoma (29-7, Big 12) will play Villanova is the national semi-finals Saturday in Houston as the two will be meeting for the second-time this season. In a December game in Honolulu, the Sooners posted a 78-55 win over the Wildcats December 7 at the Pearl Harbor Classic.
Of the previous five “final four” participants, Connecticut captured the 2014 NCAA crown (defeating Kentucky 60-54) while Memphis (losing 75-68 to Kansas) and Michigan (losing 82-76 to Kansas) lost in the national finals. Villanova (losing 83-69 to North Carolina) and West Virginia (losing 78-57 to Duke) were defeated in the national semi-finals.
With three of the five Oklahoma starters being seniors, the featured player for the Sooners at the November 17-20 event at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente will be senior-to-be Jordan Woodard. A 6-0 guard from Arcadia, Okla., Woodard is averaging 13.0 points and 3.4 assists per game for the Sooners this season while making 45.9 percent of his three-point field goal attempts.
In helping defeat Cal State-Bakersfield, VCU, Texas A&M and Oregon in the NCAA tournament, Woodard has scored 67 points in the four games (16.8 average) with 12 assists and seven steals. He has made 51.2 percent of this field goal attempts (21 of 41), Woodard has connected on 11 of 19 three-point shots (57.9 percent).
Three other 2016 PRTO participants competed in the post-season with Northern Iowa (23-13, Missouri Valley) and Xavier (28-6, BIG EAST) being NCAA entrants with Davidson (20-13, Atlantic 10) playing in the NIT. Other schools competing in the 2016 Puerto Rico Tip-Off will be Arizona State (15-17, Pac-12), Clemson (17-14, Atlantic Coast), Missouri (10-21, Southeastern) and Tulane (12-22, American), who hired Mike Dunleavy, Sr., last win as the Green Wave’s new coach.
Northern Iowa, which defeated North Carolina earlier this season (71-67 on November 21), captured the Missouri Valley’s post-season title. The Panthers defeated Texas (75-72) and lost to Texas A&M (92-88 in overtime) in NCAA West Regional action. Xavier defeated Weber State (71-53) and lost to Wisconsin (66-63) in their East Region games. The Musketeers split a pair of games with Villanova this season.
Davidson, who is led by the nation’s fifth-leading scorer Jack Gibbs, lost to Florida State (84-74) in the first round of the NIT after dropping an Atlantic 10 post-season semi-final game to VCU. Gibbs, a 6-0 senior-to-be guard from Westerville, Ohio, averaged 23.7 points a game while being credited 4.9 assist per contest. A first-team all-conference pick, Gibbs scored 30 or more points in 10 games this season.
2015 NOTE – Five of the eight schools that participated in the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off competed in the NCAA tournament, including champion Miami along with Butler, Temple, Texas Tech and Utah. It marked the fourth-time that five or more schools from a Puerto Rico Tip-Off advanced to the national championships.
Miami defeated Butler 85-75 for the 2015 title with Puerto Rico native Angel Rodriguez being named the most valuable player. Utah won the third-place game 74-68 over Temple while Texas Tech placed fifth by defeating Minnesota 81-68. In the other consolation game, Mississippi State defeated Missouri State 84-70.
Thirty-three (33) of the 72 schools that have competed in the Puerto Rico Tip-Offs have earned NCAA bids with 12 other schools receiving NIT berths. With five other schools competing after conference tournaments, 50 of the 72 schools have reached the post-season.
Six schools that completed in the 2011 Puerto Rico Tip-Off advanced to the 2012 NCAA tournament (Alabama, Colorado, Iona, Purdue, Temple and Wichita State). Five schools that participated in the 2008 (Xavier, Memphis, Missouri, USC and Chattanooga) and 2015 (Butler, Miami, Temple, Texas Tech and Utah) PRTOs earned 2009 and 2016 NCAA berths, respectively.
Three schools that competed in the 2007 (Miami, Arkansas and Temple), 2009 (Villanova, Kansas State and Georgia Tech), 2010 (West Virginia, Vanderbilt and North Carolina), 2012 (Oklahoma State, North Carolina State and Akron) and 2013 (Kansas State, Michigan and VCU) and Puerto Rico Tip-Offs advanced to the NCAA post-season.
USBWA ALL-DISTRICT TEAMS – Three players scheduled to compete in the 2016 Puerto Rico Tip-Off as seniors-to-be were named to U.S. Basketball Writers Association All-District teams, based on voting from its national membership of 900-plus.
Players named were Jarson Blossomgame of Clemson (District III), Jack Gibbs of Davision (District III) and Trevon Bluiett of Xavier (District 4). With Gibbs being the nation’s fifth-leading scorer (23.5 points a game), Blossomgame average 18.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest. Bluiett scored 15.1 points and grabbed 6.1 rebounds a game.
XAVIER COACH HONORED – With Xavier being unranked in preseason polls and finishing ninth in the final pre-NCAA polls, Chris Mack was selected the winner of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s Henry Iba Award for national coach of the year.
Despite losing the team’s leading scorer, rebounder and point guard from a year ago, Mack guided the Musketeers to a 14-4 record in the Big East and a 28-6 mark overall. A 1992 Xavier graduate where he was a two-time team captain as a player under then-head coach Pete Gillen, Mack is the first coach in school history to win national coach of the year honors.
In seven seasons, the 46-year-old Mack has a 162-77 record and ranks second all-time in career victories. He has led Xavier to six NCAA Tournaments in seven years. Mack will be formally presented with the Henry Iba Award at the College Basketball Awards gala and dinner at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City on April 11.
ESPN EVENTS – The Puerto Rico Tip-Off is one of nine worldwide early season men’s college basketball events owned and operated by ESPN Events, a division of ESPN. Twenty-nine of this season’s 56 participants across these events were selected to the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship field.
The Charlotte, N.C., based group manages six multiple-team events consisting of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Gildan Charleston Classic, DIRECTV Wooden Legacy, AdvoCare Invitational, NIT Season Tip-Off and Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. The multi-day, destination events staged from Charleston, S.C., San Juan, Puerto Rico, Orange County, Calif., Orlando, Brooklyn and Honolulu, respectively, are all bracket-format tournaments.
In addition to the multiple-team tournaments, ESPN Events also manages three neutral men’s basketball events including the Armed Forces Classic, State Farm Champions Classic and Jimmy V Classic presented by Corona.
Each 2015 event featured at least two participants who earned a selection to the NCAA Championship. The AdvoCare Invitational led the way with all eight participating teams selected to play in the postseason, including six in the NCAA Championship and two in the NIT. The entire fields from the Armed Forces Classic, State Farm Champions Classic and Jimmy V Classic presented by Corona were also selected.
All six ESPN Events multiple-team event 2015 champions earned NCAA bids: Miami from the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (No. 3, South), Virginia from the Gildan Charleston Classic (No. 1 seed, Midwest Region), Michigan State from the DIRECTV Wooden Legacy (No. 2, Midwest), Xavier from the AdvoCare Invitational (No. 2, East), Villanova from the NIT Season Tip-Off (No. 2, South) and Oklahoma from the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (No. 2, West)