BYU learned Wednesday its first-round opponent in the EA Sports Maui Invitational in November — and it's a matchup with a very familiar foe.
It will be the renewal of a rivalry as the Cougars take on Mountain West Conference member San Diego State. The two programs have a long history, dating back to when BYU was a member of the MWC.
BYU and SDSU will tip off at 9:30 p.m. MST on ESPN2 at the Lahaina Civic Center on the island of Maui on Nov. 24.
The other teams in the field are Arizona, Kansas State, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Purdue and host Chaminade.
Maui Invitational chairman Dave Odom said it was no accident that the Cougars and Aztecs were scheduled to meet in the first round.
“We look for good storylines in first-round matchups,” said Odom, the former coach at South Carolina and Wake Forest. “When you look at BYU and San Diego State, they were fierce rivals for a long time. Now we’re giving them a chance — if only for a night — to renew it. It will be a great basketball game.
"You’ve got two different styles there. San Diego State has been nationally prominent the past few years. When you look at BYU, there are very few schools in the country that have measured up better than BYU over the last 30 years. BYU has a wonderful basketball tradition. (Coach) Dave Rose is a tremendous basketball coach. I think that first-round matchup may be the most intriguing one of the tournament.”
The last time the two teams faced each other, in 2011, SDSU defeated BYU in the MWC tournament final during Jimmer Fredette’s senior year. The Cougars downed the Aztecs twice during the regular season, a memorable campaign that saw both teams ranked in the top 10.
BYU has been a member of the West Coast Conference since the 2011-12 season.
The winner of the BYU-SDSU game will face the winner of Pitt-Chaminade in the second round.
“I don’t try to seed the field one through eight. I look for good storylines, and I consult with our partner, ESPN," Odom said. "We try to get matchups that are good from a time zone standpoint. That’s important to us. It’s important to get our product back to the mainland in a time frame that people are going to watch it.”
The Cougars have participated in the Maui Invitational twice before, in 1992 and 2004, posting a 3-3 record. The Aztecs are also 3-3 all time at the Maui Invitational, having played there in 1989 and 2003.
Odom is charged with the responsibility of setting up the field every year.
“I try to choose teams that have a very strong basketball tradition that love their university,” he said. “I choose teams that have a good following, and have a good representation of fans once they get to Maui. I try to choose teams that have stability in the coaching ranks and an excellent coach.
"When you look at this year’s field, just about every school there epitomizes those qualities. Recent success is important. When I look at our field, I feel good about those qualities being present. The possibility of another exciting tournament is certainly very real.”
What makes the prestigious Maui Invitational so special?
“The EA Sports Maui Invitational is to preseason tournament basketball what the Rose Bowl is to college football,” Odom said. “It’s the ‘Granddaddy of them all.’ It’s been in existence for 30-plus years. Most of these preseason tournaments were in the formative stages when we were off and running. Our goal every year is to be better than we were last year.”
Maui has plenty to offer for basketball fans traveling to Hawaii for the tournament, Odom said.
“Last year Maui was named the No. 1 travel and vacation destination in the world for the 19th-straight year. I can’t imagine it being unseated this year. You get the Maui experience — the Pacific Ocean, palm trees, sand, water sports, volcanoes. It gives you so many things to do outside the basketball gym. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants. It’s a great setting right on the water. A great vacation and great basketball is all right there.”