The first round pairings for the Maui Invitation Tournament were released today, and the BYU Cougars will matchup with a familiar Mountain West foe, reigniting a rivalry between two schools that don’t particularly care for each other.
The San Diego State Aztecs are the Cougars first round game, making for a lot of excitement due to the two schools past with each other. The two schools frequently went at each other in the days of Jimmer Fredette and Kawhi Leonard, a time when the rivalry arguably climaxed. Both schools have a completely new look since then, but the hatred will remain between the school’s fan base’s.
In the Maui Invitational, a single elimination tournament that takes place from Nov 24 to Nov 26, the other matchups include Arizona vs. Missouri, Kansas State vs. Purdue and Pittsburgh vs. Chaminade. The winner of BYU-San Diego State will take on the winner of Pittsburgh-Chaminade.
The aforementioned setup of the tournament puts BYU in a precarious situation. If hypothetically BYU loses to the Aztecs, then they will likely face Chaminade directly in the loser’s bracket. This is an unwanted situation for the Cougars and their fanbase, because they would then miss out on exciting matchups with top-tier teams that would simultaneous boost their non-conference schedule. Long story short, this game against San Diego State is more than just bragging rights for BYU.
However, the Aztecs will be very tough to beat. Although Xavier Thames is gone, San Diego State returns Dwayne Polee, Winston Shepard, JJ O’Brien, Matt Shrigley, Aqeel Quinn and Skylar Spencer. In addition to the returners, Angelo Chol will become eligible after a redshirt season and four talented freshmen, point guard Kevin Zabo, local shooting guard Trey Kell, Malik Pope and Zylan Cheatham, come into the fold. San Diego State’s roster features a great deal of size, height, length and athleticism, which will be difficult for the Cougars to matchup with.