It's no mystery what potential title game Maui Invitational organizers wanted to create when they designed this year's bracket.
They were trying to set up a championship clash between Kansas and Indiana when they placed the two blue bloods on opposite sides of the draw.
The Maui Invitational bracket released Tuesday has the reigning Big 12 champion Jayhawks pitted against host Chaminade in the opening round of the tournament. Assuming Kansas avoids an upset of monumental proportions, it would meet the winner of UCLA-UNLV in the semifinals.
Indiana will open against Wake Forest on its side of the bracket. The winner of that game will likely meet a much-improved Vanderbilt team that finished last season on a hot streak unless the Commodores fail to get past rebuilding St. John's in the opening round.
A Kansas-Indiana matchup would be an appealing one given that both teams will likely begin next season ranked in the top 15 in the nation.
The Jayhawks have an excellent chance to win an 11th straight Big 12 title thanks to the return of steady point guard Frank Mason Jr., breakout candidate Wayne Selden and all-conference power forward Perry Ellis. Highly touted freshman big man Cheick Diallo should also make an instant impact because his ability to run the floor, alter shots in the paint and finish above the rim complements the more polished but less athletic Ellis perfectly.
Indiana slipped into the NCAA tournament last season despite a lack of any semblance of a true frontcourt presence, but the addition of five-star big man Thomas Bryant could go a long way toward shoring up those issues this year. Surrounding Bryant will be one of the nation's elite backcourts, a group highlighted by star point guard Yogi Ferrell, high-scoring wing James Blackmon and ultra-athletic combo forward Troy Williams.
The biggest threat to a potential Kansas-Indiana title game is probably Vanderbilt, which should contend in the SEC and return to the NCAA tournament next season if the duo of Damian Jones and Riley LaChance can build on their strong finish to last season. Neither UCLA nor UNLV can be counted out either, but the Bruins need other scorers to emerge around returning standout Bryce Alford and the Rebels must hope that their newcomers can offset the loss of Rashad Vaughn and Christian Wood.
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