Even before the bracket for the 2023 Maui Invitational was released earlier this week, it was clear that it would be a challenging tournament for Syracuse.
Five of the eight teams in the bracket were in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early Top-10: #1 Kansas, #3 Purdue, #6 Tennessee, #8 Gonzaga, and #10 Marqutte. In addition, UCLA reached the Sweet 16 last season. The only other team is Chaminade, the host school.
Now, the bracket is set, and the Orange were dealt a rough hand. SU faces Tennessee in round one, which is followed by either Gonzaga or Purdue in round two. That means Syracuse will almost definitely face two ranked teams in the first two rounds. SU can’t even play Chaminade, the easiest opponent, until the last round.
Historically, this is bad news. Syracuse won the Maui Invitational back in 2013. Since then, the Orange are 4-8 against Power Six teams (Big East included) during in-season tournaments. SU’s only ranked wins in that span came all the way back in 2015.
Getting beat up on early in the season could be rough for the confidence of a younger team that hasn’t worked together much.
However, maybe there are some positives about this. Firstly, there’s a decent amount of hype locally for this year’s basketball team. After the Maui Invitational, we’ll know if that hype is legitimate. It’s not impossible for SU to shock some people and go on a run.
The tournament can also be a chance to expose the Orange’s weaknesses earlier rather than later. Before the invite, the only challenge Syracuse faces is Colgate. This means SU will be battle tested before conference play.
Maybe it’ll be for the best, maybe it’ll be a disaster. One thing’s for certain though: Syracuse is going to face a gauntlet during their trip to Hawaii.