Precious few college basketball coaches dare risk losing games this early in the season.
"In this day and age, a lot of guys are playing soft schedules, buying games and staying at home," said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. "You have to tip your hat to all the coaches willing to (gamble) maybe not winning 30 games, but finding out more about their teams."
Few rolled the dice and came out a winner, leaving last week's Maui Invitational with a 2-1 record and runner-up finish.
Maryland and Michigan State also went 2-1; Kansas, Arizona and Arkansas were 1-2. Chaminade was 0-3, while champion Connecticut stormed to a 3-0 mark.
"We could have gone to a different tournament and gone 2-1 and think maybe our team is better (than what it is)," KU coach Bill Self said. "We don't have a false sense of who we are. We know we have to get a lot better. We got better every day and learned a lot about our team."
As far as UConn winning the tourney and Gonzaga placing second, or the fact Top-10 team Arizona lost two games : Self said none of that surprised him.
"They were coin-flip games," Self shrugged. "There aren't a lot of surprises in coin-flip games."
KU, by the way, had no players make the all-tournament team.
Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, who led the tournament in scoring at 28.7 points in three games, was MVP and led the five-player squad.
He was joined by teammate J.P. Batista, who had 25 rebounds and made 24 of 26 free throws; Michigan State's Maurice Ager, who averaged 26.3 ppg and hit 13 of 34 three-pointers; UConn's Denham Brown, who made the winning shot in the title game and had 47 points; and Husky teammate Hilton Armstrong, who registered seven blocked shots.
Arkansas' Ronnie Brewer, who averaged 22.3 points a game, did not make the team. Another player snubbed was MSU's Paul Davis, who led the tourney in rebounding with 35 boards. He also hit 24 of 26 free throws.
¢ Future: The 2006 Maui field will consist of Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma, Purdue, UCLA, DePaul, Georgia Tech and Chaminade.
The '07 field: Duke, Illinois, Arizona State, Louisiana State, Marquette, Oklahoma State, Princeton and Chaminade. KU is ticketed for a return in 2009.
¢ Tourney didn't disappoint: Tournament director Dave Gavitt said the Invitational lived up to its billing as the best-ever early season college tourney.
"I worried a little bit that the expectations were too high because of the teams and their rankings. I thought some of the games wouldn't live up to the billing," Gavitt told the Maui News.
"That wasn't the case. The games have been very competitive, and one game will stand out as the leader. But really every game has had a lot of energy to it, and the crowd has been great. It has been fun.''
The unforgettable game was Gonzaga's 109-106 triple-overtime victory over Michigan State. The title game also was dandy, UConn nipping Gonzaga, 65-63.
"That game was as good as it gets," Maryland coach Gary Williams said of the Zags' victory. "That's college basketball. You can say whatever you want about the NBA, but that emotion and wanting to win so bad is college basketball.''
¢ Nevada in town Thursday: How good is KU's next opponent, Nevada? Well, the No. 22-ranked Wolf Pack (3-0) traveled to Las Vegas on Saturday and tripped UNLV, 68-61.
The result surprised some, and not just because Nevada standouts Nick Fazekas and Ramon Sessions were weakened by a recent bout with food poisoning.
The surprise came because the Rebels has so much to play for Saturday, when the court at Thomas and Mack Center was named for former coach Jerry Tarkanian.
On hand for the game were 50 of Tarkanian's former players, including Greg Anthony, Ricky Sobers and Michael Burns.
Tipoff for Thursday's game is 8 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.