The stomping grounds of Mickey Mouse—sunny and beautiful Lake Buena Vista, Florida is home to the famous Walt Disney World. Mickey and friends will play host to a different kind of entertainment come this weekend: The AdvoCare Invitational.
The tournament will take place November 22nd-25th. There are 8 participants in the bracketed section of the Invitational: the Villanova Wildcats, Florida State Seminoles, LSU Tigers, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Memphis Tigers, UAB Blazers, College of Charleston Cougars, and Canisius Golden Griffins.
Villanova dropped from the AP Top 25 for the first time since December 1st, 2013 this week, after their unexpected 2-2 start. After being throttled by Michigan, and outlasted by Furman, the ‘Cats are now looking for redemption. They can certainly find some this weekend, by going for their sixth-straight early season tournament championship. Let’s see if Collin Gillespie, senior captains Eric Paschall and Phil Booth can get back to their winning ways come Thanksgiving.
The 14th-ranked Seminoles lost a heartbreaker to Michigan by the score of 58-54 in the Elite 8 last season, and will be fired up to regain some of their momentum they had as a 9-seed that did some serious damage in March. Senior guards PJ Savoy (17 PPG) and Terance Mann (15 PPG & 9.5 APG) have been balling as FSU is a sleeper to win the ACC crown. Coach Leonard Hamilton will have his ‘Noles ready to go this weekend.
The 17th-ranked LSU Tigers are off to a 4-0 start with stud freshman big man Naz Reid (Jahvon Quinerly’s longtime AAU teammate) leading the way with 15.3 points per contest. LSU is a team loaded with youthful talent, as Reid is joined by five-star forward Emmitt Williams, and four-star guard Ja’Vonte Smart. These guys are young and dangerous. Look for the Tigers to make some noise down in Disney World.
Oklahoma St. began the season with a loss to the Charlotte 49ers, but have looked much better in their last two games winning by an average of seventeen points. The Cowboys had an extremely interesting campaign last year, defeating Kansas twice, as well as West Virginia and Texas Tech. Despite these incredible resume-boosting wins, they failed to make the big dance due to a variety of bad losses. Let’s see if junior forward Cameron McGriff (17.7 PPG) and his teammates can create a more consistent product this time around.
Memphis lost a tough one to LSU by a score of 85-76 earlier this season, but bounced back to score 109 in a win against Yale. First-year head coach Penny Hardaway and his guys seem poised to turn this once mighty program around. It might be too early for Penny to have a serious impact, but watch out for Memphis down the road—in a year or two—especially now that it’ll have top-ranked recruit James Wiseman in the fold for the future.
Sophomore guard Zack Bryant is averaging 15 a game for the Blazers, as UAB is off to a hot 3-0 start. Look for them to give FSU some unexpected trouble on Thursday night.
Junior guard Grant Riller and senior forward Jarrell Brantley lead the way for the Charleston Cougars, as they are off to a 3-1 start. They will battle LSU on Thanksgiving night at 7:00 EST.
Lastly, do not sleep on the Golden Griffins of Canisius and Takal Molson. The sophomore guard is averaging over 25-points per game, and will be tough for Villanova’s defense to handle.
The tournament (formerly known as the Orlando Classic and Old Spice Classic) will be played at the HP Field House at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Walt Disney World Resort. The AdvoCare Invitational has been a college basketball tournament played over Thanksgiving weekend since 2006.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs have won the Invitational three times since its inaugural season. No other team has won the tournament more than once. 2018 is the first year that any defending National Title winners will participate in the AdvoCare Invitational. 2018 participants Florida State and Memphis have each won the AdvoCare Invitational in the past, in 2009 and 2013 respectively.
Each game of the tournament will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. Villanova begins its journey on Thursday, with a 1:30 p.m. ET game against Canisius.