In a time of college basketball where the traditional holiday tournaments are being replaced by mega money games, and tournaments before the holiday, the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational still stands.
Entering the 52nd year of the tournament Coach Haskins loved, familiar face Alcorn State will join Summit League contenders Western Illinois, and Denver, and of course the boys in Orange and Blue.
Different format this year, in that the schedule is set for both days, separating the conference foes.
If the winners from Saturday night meet up Sunday, some hardware will be given out to the victor on Sunday in a de-facto championship game.
We take a look at each team and the schedule of the two day hoop fest, share your favorite memories of the grand daddy of them all.
Western Illinois Leathernecks
Current Record: 5-7, 0-0, Summit League
Head Coach: Jim Molinari
Adam Link, Sr, F, 12.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg
Garrett Covington, Fr, G, 11.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg
Tate Stensgaard, So, F, 8.2 ppg, 4.1 ppg,
|Points Per Game||60.5|
|Opponents Points Per Game||56.6|
|Opponents 3-point FG%||.301|
|Free Throw %||.585|
|Rebounds Per Game||33.5|
|Assist Per Game||13.4|
|Turnovers Per Game||12.6|
Western Illinois is one of the better defensive teams UTEP will face all year. They come in ranked 6th in scoring defense nationally, and Senior Adam Link is one of the best players in their conference. Teams are shooting just under 40 percent on the year against them, a true test to the continued growth of the Miners efficient offense over the past three wins. They won 22 games a year ago, but graduated key players from their CBI appearance. This will be the first game between UTEP and Western Illinois.
Current Record: 8-5, 0-0 C-USA
McKenzie Moore, Jr, G, 13.1 ppg,
Julian Washburn, Jr, F, 11.4 ppg,
Vince Hunter, Fr, F, 10.4 ppg
|Points Per Game||71.1|
|Opponents Points Per Game||66.2|
|Opponents 3-point FG%||.296|
|Free Throw %||.680|
|Rebounds Per Game||36.4|
|Assist Per Game||14.1|
|Turnovers Per Gam||11.5
UTEP enters as the hottest team in the tournament as they have won 4 out of their last 5. Defensively the Miners have found their identity, they rate 15th in nation in field goal percentage defense, and 19th nationally in free throws made. While he has got the jumper going the past game, C.J. Cooper has played a huge role defensively, along with guards McKenzie Moore and Justin Crosgile. Julian Washburn has been on fire for UTEP, and the continued development of Vince Hunter has took this team to another level in the past two games.
Alcorn St. Braves
Current Record: 3-7, 0-0, SWAC
Head Coach: Luther Riley
LeAntwan Luckett, So, F, 14.2 ppg
Octavius Brown, Jr, F, 10.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg
|Points Per Game||64.6|
|Opponents Points Per Game||72.7|
|Opponents 3-point FG%||.349|
|Free Throw %||.648|
|Rebounds Per Game||32.9|
|Assist Per Game||9.4|
|Turnovers Per Game||12.4|
The Braves have not played on their home floor since November 18th, and have not won a game since then as well. The road warriors enter the Haskins Center losers of their last six, including the likes of Houston and Mercer. Luckett is an athletic forward who is very talented, though shooting .384 percent from the field as team, and struggling to score 70 points a night has hurt them thus far.
Current Record: 5-6, 0-0 Summit League
Brett Olson, Jr, G, 15.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Chris Udofia, Sr, F, 13.o ppg, 5.7 rpg
Cam Griffin, Jr, G, 8.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 19 steals
|Points Per Game||65.7|
|Opponents Points Per Game||67.6|
|Opponents 3-point FG%||.379|
|Free Throw %||.711|
|Rebounds Per Game||27.1|
|Assist Per Game||15.3|
|Turnovers Per Game||10.3
The Princeton offense returns to the tournament, this time via the Denver Pioneers. Denver picked apart Colorado State and hung 80 points on the bigger Rams after a tough start to the season. Denver opened with back-to-back games against Cal and Stanford, both losses, along with neutral court losses to Harvard and Pepperdine started them with an 0-4 record. The Colorado State game sparked a three game winning streak that was snapped by UC-Irvine 63-50 in their last outing. All signs point to UTEP and Denver meeting up for some hardware Sunday, as both teams are playing good basketball at this point of the season.
Miner Rush Pre-Tournament All-Tourney Team
McKenzie Moore, UTEP
Adam Link, Western Illinois
Brett Olson, Denver
Julian Washburn, UTEP
LeAntwan Luckett, Alcorn State
Alcorn State vs. Denver, 5 PM MDT
Western Illinois vs. UTEP, 7 PM MDT
Western Illinois vs. Alcorn State, 5 PM MDT
Denver vs. UTEP, 7 PM MDT