Baylor will play in the Maui Invitational for the first time in 26 years, but it’s not that Scott Drew hasn’t wanted to be in the premier college basketball tournament.
It’s just hard to get an invitation.
“It’s the crème de la crème,” Drew said. “It’s one of those bucket list things. We know it’s a prestigious tournament that’s hard to get into, and we’re very excited to be there.”
The No. 20 Bears will try to win their fifth straight game to open the season when they face host Chaminade at 8:30 p.m. Central time Monday at the Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Hawaii.
The tournament will begin Monday with Arkansas facing California at 2 p.m. followed by No. 9 Syracuse against Minnesota at 4:30 p.m. The No. 13 Gonzaga-Dayton game will conclude the first day at 11 p.m.
The Bears will face either Gonzaga or Dayton in Tuesday’s second round. The championship game is set for 9 p.m. Wednesday.
While Drew will give his team some time away from basketball to enjoy Maui, his players know their focus must be on basketball because the field is so strong.
“It’s a business trip,” Drew said. “The competition will be good, obviously. They have great turnouts and that makes the gym small and packed. It will be an exciting environment.”
With their depth and athleticism, the Bears should have a huge edge over Chaminade, an NCAA Division II Honolulu school that has beaten Western Oregon and Saint Martin’s in its only two games this season.
But the Silverswords have been known to pull off an occasional upset in the Maui Invitational, such as last year’s 86-73 win over Texas.
After transferring from Florida Gulf Coast University, senior guard Christophe Varidel scored 30 points in Chaminade’s 82-73 season-opening win over Western Oregon. Varidel missed Chaminade’s 82-63 win over Saint Martin’s with an injury, but guard Kiran Shastri scored 21 points.
Guard A.J. Mathews and forward Rhys Murphy are both averaging 11.5 points per game.
The Bears have won their first four games with a balanced attack that is led by guard Brady Heslip with a 15-point average and forward Cory Jefferson wiith 13 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Point guard Kenny Chery is averaging 11.8 points and four assists while center Isaiah Austin is averaging 10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and five blocks per game.
Drew has liberally rotated nine players, and the depth should pay off with three games in three days in the Maui Invitational.
“I’ve been asked what I feel like our strength is, and I feel like it’s our depth,” Baylor guard Gary Franklin said. “So having three games back-to-back, I’m not worried at all. Guys will have their nights where they’re shooting well and playing well. But the thing about our team is we can sub and not drop off.”
Baylor redshirt freshman forward Chad Rykhoek, who hasn’t played this season due to a hip injury, is expected to undergo surgery in December, according to Drew.