Marquette turnovers, Kansas’ scoring and… Zach Edey: What we learned in Maui

The Maui Invitational is a rite of November in men’s college hoops, and the 2023 version was unlike any Invitational we’ve ever seen.

This year’s event was played not on Maui but about 80 miles away in Honolulu, due to the devastating wildfires that swept through Lahaina in August. The traditional host venue, the Lahaina Civic Center, is still serving as a vital facility for ongoing recovery efforts in western Maui.

Fans on the island of Oahu were treated to the strongest Invitational Field in recent memory. Three of the AP poll’s top four teams and five of the top 11 were featured in a loaded bracket.

Marquette and Kansas nearly came to blows when Shaka Smart appeared to take exception to Kevin McCullar Jr.‘s comments after the Jayhawk made a 3. Purdue and Tennessee — or, more precisely, the referees assigned to their semifinal — set new standards for foul calls. A young UCLA team looked notably impressive despite losing its first game. And Zach Edey and the Boilermakers outlasted the Golden Eagles to win it all.

We always say November doesn’t matter so much, especially when strong teams lose a game here and there. But does that apply to this particular tournament? ESPN’s panel of experts — Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello and John Gasaway — have some thoughts.



Zach Edey puts up 28 points, 15 rebounds in key win vs. No. 4 Marquette

Zach Edey puts up a remarkable 28-point, 15-rebound double-double in No. 2 Purdue’s win vs. No. 4 Marquette.

Zach Edey is a much taller version of Trae Young

Edey returns to the mainland with his usual big numbers for offensive rebounds, dunks and blocks. Just don’t look past all the points from the line. Even if Matt Painter’s All-American didn’t have the good statistical fortune to play in a foul-filled win over Tennessee, Edey’s production on free throws so far this season would still be impressive. In this respect, the 7-4 Boilermaker is reminiscent of Trae Young during his single season with Oklahoma. Like the former Sooner star, Edey does some of his most effective work with the clock stopped. — John Gasaway



Oso Ighodaro has a pair of thunderous blocks

Marquette’s Oso Ighodaro rejects back-to-back shots with authority against the Jayhawks.

Marquette’s win over No. 1 Kansas in Maui on Tuesday was proof of the team’s potential to make a Final Four run in March. And key to that is Ighodaro. In the first round against UCLA, the 6-11 senior center (14 points, four rebounds, one block) simply outplayed the Bruins’ big man Adem Bona. Then, against the Jayhawks, Ighodaro (21 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks) had the edge against Hunter Dickinson. With a landscape that includes elite big men at Duke, Arizona, Purdue, Creighton, Kansas, Kentucky and UConn, any run to the national title will probably demand a strong frontcourt. Ighodaro’s two quick fouls disrupted his team’s rhythm in the first half against Purdue in the championship game Wednesday. But they also demonstrated his importance. His ability to stay on the floor this season and face the top big men in the country could determine Marquette’s ceiling. — Myron Medcalf

Turnovers — for and against — are really important for Marquette

Last season Shaka Smart’s team played basketball for three entire months without committing more turnovers than the opponent in a single game. Then, when the impossible happened and Michigan State actually won the turnover battle, Marquette lost in the round of 32. We’re seeing this same pattern repeat (so far) in 2023-24. In 205 combined possessions against Illinois, UCLA and Kansas, the Golden Eagles scored fewer points on each “effective” (turnover-less) possession than their opponents. Of course, Marquette won all three games by taking care of the ball and forcing a high number of turnovers. Purdue did a stellar job of getting up shots in its championship win against Smart’s group, but that’s still a tall task for any team against this defense. Nevertheless, good things tend to happen for Marquette when, as often happens, it gains an advantage in turnovers. — Gasaway



Kansas outduels Tennessee to finish third in Maui Invitational

Hunter Dickinson balls out with 17 points and 20 rebounds to lead Kansas to a win over Tennessee and finish third in the Maui Invitational.

Kansas‘ ceiling will be determined by its perimeter newcomers

Kansas has four established playmakers: Hunter Dickinson, K.J. Adams Jr., Kevin McCullar Jr. and Dajuan Harris Jr. The assumption in the preseason was that one of the freshmen or transfers would step up as a consistent ancillary player on the wing and make the Jayhawks one of the most balanced units in the country. That hasn’t quite happened yet. The lack of shot creators and makers in the backcourt was noticeable in the loss to Marquette (and in the win over Kentucky in the Champions Classic, though Harris bailed them out in that one). Touted freshmen Elmarko Jackson and Johnny Furphy aren’t quite there yet, and Towson transfer Nick Timberlake isn’t making shots right now. Something worth monitoring: Freshman Jamari McDowell played 27 minutes against Tennessee. He was perhaps the least-touted of the incoming players, but he hit a pair of 3s against the Vols to help in the win, and brings length on the wing. — Borzello



Dalton Knecht knocks down 3 for Tennessee

Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht pulls up from the wing and sinks the 3-pointer.

For all the talk of Tennessee having an improved offense this season, the Vols scored fewer than 0.96 points per possession in all three games in Hawaii. At times they looked awfully similar to last year’s unit, which went through long lulls at that end of the floor and didn’t have the power to consistently beat good teams. This year, they do have the power, on paper. But that didn’t quite translate against Purdue and Kansas. Dalton Knecht, who has been one of the best transfers in the country through the opening few weeks, really struggled in the second half of both games, combining for six points on 2-for-13 shooting. Unsurprisingly, Tennessee also struggled to make shots in both games, going 17-for-63 (27%) from behind the arc and making just six of 20 layup attempts against the Jayhawks. Knecht is the separator for Tennessee, someone who can go get his own shot and has the size and athleticism to make contested shots over good defenders. But when he’s off, the Vols will struggle. — Borzello

Sebastian Mack established himself as UCLA‘s impact newcomer

Entering the season, it was entirely unclear how Mick Cronin was going to set up his rotation. Adem Bona was back inside, but that was about it. It hasn’t taken long for freshman guard Sebastian Mack to cement his spot as the Bruins’ go-to guy on the perimeter, though. He had 18 points in the second game of the season against Lafayette, and has only taken his game up a level against superior competition in Maui. Against Marquette in the first round, he finished with 25 points on 14 shots, also grabbing six boards. Mack does most of his damage inside the arc and at the free-throw line, but his hot start seems like it has some staying power. — Borzello

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