It's Thanksgiving week, which means turkey, football, shopping, and of course, a bunch of in-season college basketball tournaments. The Maui Invitational is one of the most well-known of these tournaments, and for the eighth time out of the 39 Maui Invitationals that began in 1984, Kansas is part of the field. They've won the tournament three times, including their two most recent appearances in 2015 and 2019.
In recent years, Kansas hasn't exactly put their best foot forward in these Thanksgiving Invitationals. Last year at Atlantis, Kansas needed a last second outback to scrape past a mediocre Wisconsin team before getting dominated by Tennessee. In 2021, Kansas lost to a mediocre Dayton team at the ESPN Events Invitational, followed by an underwhelming win over Iona. In 2020, Kansas started the season with the Ft. Meyers Tipoff, and lost by double digits on Thanksgiving day in a wild shootout with Gonzaga. Is there something going on with Kansas and their approach to these in-season tournaments, or have they just coincidentally had a few consecutive disappointing performances? I don't think anyone knows the answer to that question, but it's fair to say the Jayhawks need to bring their A game if they want to come out of this thing undefeated, because the field is stacked.
If Kansas beats Chaminade, they face the winner of an intriguing game between Marquette and UCLA. If they win that, they'll face the team that comes out of the other half of the bracket, which includes Gonzaga, Tennessee, Purdue, and Syracuse. After today, no matchup will be easy for Kansas or any other team in Honolulu (due to August's wildfires in Maui, the tournament was moved), in a field where half the teams are ranked in KenPom's top 11.
But before Kansas worries about tough matchups against the other powers in the field, they need to take care of the host team, Chaminade. Chaminade is a D2 school that gets to play some tough D1 schools every year as a result of this tournament. While Chaminade is among the most famous D2 basketball programs in the country because of their involvement in the Maui Invitational, they haven't had much sustained success as a program. You have to go back to 2019-20 to find a winning season for the Silverswords, which also happens to be the last year Kansas participated in the tournament. Despite Chaminade being ranked in the D2 top 25 at times that season, the Jayhawks beat them easily, 93-63.
Taking a closer look at this year's Silverswords squad, KU will need to be prepared to watch Chaminade try to bury them with threes. Three of their players are putting up over 5 3PA per game so far, with another averaging over four. As a team, 40% of their field goal attempts have come from beyond the arc. Despite being 1-2 headed into tonight, Chaminade can score. They've put up between 72 and 86 points in their three games, and they're hitting 35% of their threes. They've shot just under 50% from two, but are dangerous at the free throw line, where they're 52-63 (82.5%). Their top scorer, Isaac Ameral-Artharee, is a player to keep an eye on, averaging 21.7 ppg and hitting 47% of his 17 3PA so far. Jamir Thomas and Ross Reeves are their other two scorers averaging double digits at 16.3 and 10 ppg respectively. Thomas is another threat from outside, shooting 7-16 (44%) from the perimeter so far. They haven't been a strong defensive team, but they do have a bit of rim protection with two players who've already combined for ten blocks this year in Reeves and Chris Ready. However, since those two are 6'4 and 6'5, it's unlikely that they would be giving Kansas fits in the paint.
Chaminade shoots a lot of threes and shoots them fairly well, but unless they're just scorching hot from outside, it's tough to see how they can be competitive against the Jayhawks. They have a couple of guys providing size at 6'9, but neither has been a major contributor for them so far, so they'll almost certainly be doubling Hunter Dickinson in the post, which should leave others open for spot ups or backdoor cuts to the basket. The Jayhawks will likely make things miserable for Chaminade inside the arc, where they aren't terribly efficient anyway, and that's without having to play anyone with nearly the size and athleticism they'll see tonight.
It's possible Chaminade comes out and keeps things close for a while if they're feeling it from three, but it would take a complete meltdown for Kansas not to eventually build a comfortable lead. Kansas will likely be without KJ Adams, whose mother recently died after a battle with cancer, so I do think a slow start is entirely possible as the Jayhawks try to establish some rhythm. Ultimately though, this should end up a blowout, which would give the starters some valuable rest time at the end as they start their stretch of three games in three days.
Kansas 87, Chaminade 68