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North Carolina, Texas, Butler to headline 2012 Maui Invitational

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Maui Invitational

More than four months before the loaded 2011 Maui Invitational tips off, we already have an idea of what the following year's event will look like.

North Carolina and Texas will headline the 2012 Maui Invitational,'s Jeff Goodman tweeted Thursday. Butler, Marquette, Illinois, USC, Mississippi State and host Chaminade will round out the rest of a strong field, per Goodman.

At a time when the preseason tournament market has been overrun by ESPN-sponsored events offering teams lucrative appearance fees and national TV exposure, the Maui Invitational remains one of the few independent tournaments still thriving. Maui's prime location and unmatched pedigree enables it to lure top teams year after year, ensuring that it will keep its TV affiliation with ESPN for the foreseeable future.

The 2012 field may not be quite as formidable as a 2011 event featuring five former national champions, but there are plenty of mouthwatering potential matchups that would surely draw in TV viewers.

North Carolina likely will sustain heavy losses to the NBA next summer, but the Tar Heels have enough young talent in their program to avoid falling far. Texas continues to bring in top recruiting classes year after year under Rick Barnes. And Butler figures to be stronger in two years than it will be next year as forward Khyle Marshall and a formidable 2011 recruiting class become more comfortable shouldering the scoring load.

It's interesting that Mississippi State is returning to Hawaii so soon after its ill-fated trip to the islands a year ago. TV cameras caught Bulldogs center Renardo Sidney brawling with a teammate in the stands at last December's Diamond Head Classic, leading to a suspension for the remainder of the tournament.

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