Well, that didn’t take long.
The conversation about the best team in America took a turn this week when UConn skated through the Empire Classic in New York with wins over Indiana and Texas. The latter was particularly impressive because Donovan Clingan, the projected first-round pick in the 2024 NBA draft, struggled with foul trouble, so Dan Hurley had to rely on big man Samson Johnson — and the Huskies still dominated.
But the Maui Invitational has also been a factor in the discussion about the best team in America. Marquette‘s dismissal of top-ranked Kansas and Purdue‘s victory over Tennessee has set up a championship matchup that will certainly move the winner higher in the national championship contender hierarchy.
Plus, the winner of the Kansas-Tennessee battle for third place should still leave the Aloha State feeling good about its national title aspirations.
Who is the best team in America right now? We might have a solid answer in the next 48 hours.
All odds from ESPN BET.
Maui Invitational, Honolulu, Hawaii
Wednesday, ESPN, 5 p.m. ET
It’s odd that only one player over the past 40 years — former Virginia star Ralph Sampson Jr. — has won back-to-back Wooden Awards. But Zach Edey is already making a strong case that he could be worthy of becoming the second player to do so. The 7-foot-4 star finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and one block in Purdue’s 71-67 victory over Tennessee on Tuesday, despite playing just 26 minutes due to foul trouble. Teams have to send help every time he touches the ball, and that creates space for a Purdue squad that has made 40% of its 3-point attempts thus far. But Marquette’s Oso Ighodaro, a 6-11 senior, could be the key to Shaka Smart’s title hopes. In Tuesday’s win over No. 1 Kansas, Ighodaro outplayed Hunter Dickinson. Can he match Edey’s production, too? That’s a crucial question. But Marquette’s offensive speed and defensive pressure disrupted KU’s flow. Edey must keep up on defense against this Marquette squad.
Medcalf’s pick: Purdue 74-71. Against the spread: Marquette (+3.5).
Maui Invitational, Honolulu, Hawaii
Wednesday, ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Nothing is decided in November. Yes, Kansas will lose its No. 1 ranking after its loss to Marquette on Tuesday, but that won’t do any long-term damage to a team that will get multiple opportunities to earn signature wins in the months ahead. Still, a real question remains about the Jayhawks: How many true scorers does Bill Self have? Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. collected 37 of KU’s 59 points in the loss. In this matchup against Tennessee, Kansas will have to identify the player not named McCullar or Dickinson who can consistently give the Jayhawks that offensive spark. Tennessee won’t make it easy. The Vols just held Purdue to 96 points per 100 possessions (the Boilermakers connected on just 38.5% of their shots inside the arc) in their 71-67 loss. Kansas just faced one of the top offensive units in America. On Wednesday, the Jayhawks will have to tussle with the top defensive team in America (Tennessee is No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom).
Medcalf’s pick: Kansas 72-67. Against the spread: Kansas (-1.5)
Acrisure Classic, Palm Springs, California
Thursday, Fox, 4 p.m. ET
After his team’s loss to Duke in the Champions Classic earlier this month, A.J. Hoggard told his teammates he should come off the bench if his shooting struggles continued. But Tom Izzo stuck with him. After averaging 12.5 PPG and collecting eight assists combined in two wins over Butler and Alcorn State, Hoggard is beginning to regain his confidence. That’s the good news. The bad news? Arizona guard Caleb Love‘s confidence is growing, too — he has 15.0 PPG and 6.0 APG in Arizona’s past two games — and the Wildcats have connected on a ridiculous 41.5% of their 3-point attempts.
Medcalf’s pick: Arizona 76-72. Against the spread: odds currently not available.
Rady Children’s Invitational, San Diego
Thursday, FS1, 5:30 p.m. ET
Seton Hall coach Shaheen Holloway’s confrontation with Wagner coach Donald Copeland on Saturday went viral before Holloway apologized for the interaction. He knew he’d gone too far when he pushed Copeland’s hand away after his team’s 72-51 win. But Holloway’s fiery personality is a trait that has impacted Seton Hall. A year after losing to Siena and DePaul, the Pirates have dominated a slate of sub-200 KenPom teams. Meanwhile, USC has one of America’s best players in Isaiah Collier, a freshman who is averaging 21.0 PPG and connecting on 41.7% of his 3-point attempts. But he also has 21 turnovers through four games. And Seton Hall has forced turnovers on 21% of its opponents’ possessions, per KenPom.
Medcalf’s pick: Seton Hall 75-72. Against the spread: odds currently not available
Medcalf’s picks straight up: 6-1
Against the spread: 3-4