The Hall of Fame Classic, which tips off Monday at Sprint Center, is a resume-building opportunity for all involved.
Every champion in the 16 previous events has appeared in the NCAA Tournament, as have 11 of the runners-up.
In all, more than half of the teams advancing to the semifinals in Kansas City since Missouri won the inaugural event in 2001 have appeared in the NCAA Tournament.
Each team in this year’s field — UCLA meets Creighton in Monday’s 6 p.m. opener and Baylor takes on Wisconsin around 8:30 p.m. — have NCAA ambitions.
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The Bluejays (3-0), picked fifth by Big East coaches, didn’t receive a vote in the AP preseason top 25 but collected a statement victory last week at No. 20 Northwestern. Junior guard Khyri Thomas had 24 in the 92-88 victory and averages 17.7 points per game. Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster leads Creighton with a 19.3-point average.
Creighton, which won the event in 2002 and 2004, joins Kansas, Missouri and Texas as two-time winners of the tournament.
The 23rd-ranked Bruins (3-0) arrive short-handed because of an international incident. Three players — LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley — were arrested for shoplifting during the team’s trip to China. The trio returned home to great media fanfare last week and read a statement of remorse that included a thank-you to President Trump for his role in helping the players return from China a few days after their teammates.
(That storyline took a twist on Sunday, with the President tweeting he “should have left them in jail.” Read why here. )
Baylor (3-0) gets its first major test after winning its first three by an average of 27 points. Coach Scott Drew is coming off career victory No. 300, a 78-61 triumph over Alcorn State on Friday. Big man Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. averages 12.0 points and 10.3 rebounds.
The Bears will face another one of the nation’s premier front liners in Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who averages 17.7 points and 8.7 rebounds. The Badgers (2-1) are coming off an 80-70 loss to Xavier.
Tuesday’s third-place game tips at 6:30 p.m., with the title game starting about 9 p.m.