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Men’s Hoops is Set for Tough Competition

November 23, 1998

By GORDON SAKAMOTO Associated Press Writer

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) – The island of Maui may be a great place to visit, but there will be no sun and surf and white-sand beaches for eight college basketball teams this week.

Instead, they’ll be spending the next three days in a steamy non-air conditioned gymnasium trying to win the Maui Invitational championship.

Four of the eight teams in the three-day tournament are ranked in the Top 25 – No. 9 Utah, No. 21 Indiana, No. 22 Syracuse and No. 24 Clemson. All four face unranked opponents in today’s opening round.

Syracuse opens the festivities against host Chaminade. Following will be Clemson against Michigan, Indiana against Kansas State with Utah closing out the first round against Arizona State.

The players may not like the format, but it will be a time when coaches can take measure of their teams and see if they can play through the pain of three games in consecutive days.

One coach who likes the format is Indiana’s Bobby Knight, especially the stamina aspect the tournament format provides.

“I think as coaches and players, we all have a tendency to overlook how crucial stamina is in successful basketball,” he said Sunday.

“We’re playing three days in a row so stamina really comes into it. We’ll see in relatively warm circumstances how well the team lasts through a game, through a second game and through a third game.

The short series will also provide coaches with a personality read on the team.

“In three straight games, we have to prepare for a lot of different things,” Knight said. “How will your kids listen? How will they react? I think there are an awful lot of things you can find out relative to your team because of the format of the tournament.”

Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe isn’t thrilled to be in the same field with Indiana. If the Wolverines win their bracket and Indiana advances, they’ll meet in the championship game on Wednesday.

“I don’t like it at all,” Ellerbe said of finding Michigan in the same tournament with another Big Ten opponent. “I think it’s probably a mishap in terms of getting a field together.”

But he tempered that by adding, “If we do meet, it’s probably a good thing because it will mean we’ll be in the finals.”