CONWAY, S.C., November 19, 2019 – As the only teams competing in this week’s Myrtle Beach Invitational that currently are ranked in the Top-25, Villanova and Baylor could be considered the favorites to take home the championship trophy. But there are plenty of potential challengers standing in their way. In fact, the other six teams in the field entered the week with a combined record this season of 18-4.
The two leading candidates to pull off the upset are likely Mississippi State (4-0) and Utah (3-0), both of which received votes in this week’s polls. The Bulldogs opened the season by winning four games in 13 days, while the Utes wrapped two close victories around a 94-point rout.
Tyson Carter has averaged of 16.5 points per game for Mississippi State, with Robert Woodward II and Reggie Perry combining for 26 points and 20 rebounds per outing. But in many ways it is the defense that has paced the Bulldogs, who are holding opponents to an average of less than 58 points and 40 percent shooting per game.
“I’m so happy with our defense,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “We’re doing a great job on the glass (outrebounding opponents by a margin of 41-29).”
Meanwhile, after rolling to a record-setting 143-49 victory over Mississippi Valley State, the Utes pulled out a thrilling 73-69 squeaker against Minnesota, a win that gave Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak his 200th career victory. Four players scored in double figures for the Utes, and for the season Utah has six players averaging at least 9.7 points per game.
“The strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the ability of each man,” Krystkowiak said. “When we don’t take it on ourselves and try to beat the world, then we have a fighting chance when we stick together.”
The MBI field also includes Middle Tennessee (3-1 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in both 2016 and 2017), Ohio (3-1 with its only loss this season was at Villanova) and Tulane (3-0 under new head coach Ron Hunter).
And finally, there is the host team, Coastal Carolina. The 2-2 Chanticleers might be a bit of an underdog in this tournament, but they will have the benefit of an enthusiastic home crowd at the on-campus HTC Center.
The Myrtle Beach Invitational begins at 11:30 a.m. ET Thursday with Villanova taking on Middle Tennessee. That will be followed by Baylor vs. Ohio, Mississippi State vs. Tulane, and Utah vs. Coastal Carolina. All four games will be broadcast on either ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPNews.