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Three Fifty One: Turkey day

Three Fifty One is a weekly blog covering the 351 teams of Division 1 college basketball. Graphic by Maria Trias.

Three Fifty One is a weekly blog covering the 351 teams of Division 1 college basketball.
Football controls Thanksgiving. You go to your high school football game in the morning, play a touch (or tackle, depending on daring you are) game with your family, and digest the big meal on the couch napping with the Cowboys on in the background. But while football is the unquestioned king of this holiday weekend, college basketball is certainly second—and it may be closer than you think.
College basketball actually has a lot of history with Turkey Week. Many of the major pre-season tournaments—the Maui Invitational, the new Battle 4 Atlantis, the NIT Season Tip-Off, the Great Alaska Shootout—take place over the holiday, and some of the greatest upsets of all time have been sprung on unsuspecting power conference teams in the past.
Some of the best pre-turkey holiday entertainment comes with the Maui Invitational. With a stocked showcase of major powers year after year, a blue blood or two, a few strong mid-majors, and pesky Division II Chaminade, this early-season tournament is the best in college hoops.
It’s always fun to see the scrappy DII Silverswords try to pull off an upset against the big boys, and they’ve had their fair share of victories. Games with Chaminade are lose-lose situations for DI programs playing them: If the major powers win, they get no credit, but if they lose, national humiliation ensues. Texas suffered this fate two years ago.
Historically, the Invitational was founded in part because of the greatest college basketball upset of all time—NAIA Chaminade over top-ranked Virginia in 1982. At the time, Chaminade was a 900-person college that shared sports facilities with a high school, and was accustomed to being the punching bag for highly ranked teams in return for some cash. But the Silverswords took down top-ranked Virginia, who had the Naismith Player of the Year and future #1 NBA draft pick Ralph Sampson, in a miraculous 77-72 shocker.
So, today, instead of flipping the channel to watch the Lion’s WR’s struggle to catch passes or see the ‘Boys play in the Jerry Jones Palace, consider watching some premier college matchups. Georgetown takes on second-ranked Florida in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis at 3:30 p.m. It’s a great chance to watch senior-laden Bo Ryan’s squad against the pesky Hoyas, who upset 2014 Final Four participant Florida yesterday in the first round of the tournament.
Then, for post-meal digestion, flip the channel at 7 p.m. to see UCLA take on UNC in the loser-bracket matchup of the Battle 4 Atlantis no one envisioned. Both teams lost in the first round (#22 UCLA to Oklahoma, and #5 UNC to Butler), shooting terribly from the field and from the free throw line. UNC’s bigs should advantage of UCLA’s thin bench here and pick up a close, low-scoring, victory.

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