North Carolina, who also took the road less traveled to the Islands, stopping off to beat Santa Barbara by 15 on their way to winning the Maui Championship. Incidentally, they also won the national championship that season, which doesn't have anything to do with anything but sure would be nice.2007: Bruce Weber's perennially under-achieving Illinois team went all the way to Hawaii to get ready for the Maui, beating the Rainbow Warriors 79-77 on their home floor. Illinois won their tourney opener against Arizona State before being handled by Duke, eventually recovering to beat Oklahoma State in the consolation game for a 3rd place finish. 2005: Nobody made the trip in aught six, but a pair of teams did in 2005. UConn traveled from coast to coast to beat Pepperdine by 19 on their way to winning the tournament in Jim Calhoun's last trip to Maui. UConn would spend the year towards the top of the polls before losing to George Mason in the Sweet 16.
Michigan State also made their most recent trip to Maui in 2005, and got smoked by Hawaii on the way. The Spartans lost 84-62 to the University of the Big Island, but recovered to finish 3rd in the tournament after losing an epic semifinal to Gonzaga. Michigan State was also knocked out of the NCAA tournament by George Mason that season, which doesn't really mean anything but is a little weird.2004: North Carolina apparently has made a habit of stopping out west before heading to Hawaii, as the Heels preceded their 2008 trip with a stop at Santa Clara in 2004. Some will remember that UNC, the prohibitive national title favorite that season, lost to the fighting Steve Nashes to open their 04-05 campaign. They regrouped quickly, however, and won not only the Maui Classic but the national title. ---- So what does it all mean? That teams in the last six years who make a stop on the way to Maui have an average finish of 2.3? That over 25% of these teams have gone on to win the national championship? That the highest an SEC team has finished in the Maui Invitational after first playing a game in the Pacific time zone is 5th? Well, it sort of means all that, but doesn't really mean any of it, if you know what I mean. What it really means is that you're now 15 minutes closer to the game and so full of information about Hawaiian history you could probably teach Kelly Kapowski's grandpa a thing or two. Stick around for the Maui Live Blog, which should be coming directly. Go Big Blue.