The Maui Jim Maui Invitational announced that the BYU Cougars will join the field for its 2019 event, according to a press release sent Tuesday.
BYU will be making the trek to the islands alongside some of the elite programs in college basketball, including Kansas, Michigan State, UCLA, Georgia, Virginia Tech and Dayton, along with host school Chaminade, which competes in Division II. The tournament will take place on November 25-27, 2019 at the Lahaina Civic Center on the island of Maui.
The Cougars are no strangers to the Maui Invitational, having played in the event on three previous occasions. Dave Rose’s squad last made the trek across the Pacific in 2014, when they suffered two tough overtime losses to San Diego State and Purdue, and witnessed a record-setting performance by Chase Fischer in a victory over Chaminade.
With the NCAA Tournament selection committee putting an increased emphasis on the strengths of teams’ nonconference schedules as a key factor, this trip to Maui should go a long way toward beefing up BYU’s 2019 slate. Given the sheer number of high-quality programs in the field, Rose can bank on getting at least two (and potentially three) games against a strong opponent, giving the Cougars multiple opportunities to notch the types of “signatures wins” that the program’s tournament profile has lacked in recent years.
These nonconference opportunities could take on an increasingly important role for BYU, particularly with Gonzaga currently weighing the possibility of leaving the West Coast Conference as early as the 2018 season. If the Zags were to jump ship, that would remove two guaranteed games against a top-quality opponent from the Cougars’ conference schedule. Rose and company would have to compensate by finding additional opportunities to play big-time programs in their nonconference slate — a task that is easier said than done for most mid-major programs. Playing in prestigious holiday tournaments like the Maui Invitational is one way that a program like BYU can lock in multiple games against quality competition on a neutral floor.
With the 2019 season more than 18 months away (and significant roster turnover likely still on the horizon for the Cougars), it’s hard to project who will be suiting up for the Cougars in Hawaii, particularly with Yoeli Childs entering his name in the NBA Draft on Tuesday (albeit without hiring an agent). If Childs were to return, the Cougars could potentially bring an experienced and dangerous team to the islands, including possible seniors TJ Haws, Yoeli Childs and Nick Emery, as well as sophomores Gavin Baxter and Connor Harding, among others. However, the next few months should give us a much better indication of who may be staying and going in Provo, with an eye toward 2018, 2019 and beyond.
Regardless of who ends up taking the floor, any chance for BYU to compete with the blue-bloods of college basketball on a national stage should certainly be celebrated — and the 2019 Maui Invitational appears to provide just such an opportunity.