The Myrtle Beach Invitational is the mid-major challenge of early-season basketball tournaments. This eight-team battle will be a statement piece for one or two teams as a resume builder.
- Charleston (1-1)
- Coastal Carolina (1-0)
- Furman (2-0)
- Liberty (2-0)
- Saint Louis (3-0)
- Vermont (2-0)
- Wichita State (3-0)
- Wyoming (2-0)
First round (Thursday, Nov. 16)
- Charleston vs. Vermont – 11:30 a.m. (ESPNU)
- Saint Louis vs. Wyoming – 2 p.m. (ESPN2)
- Wichita State vs. Coastal Carolina – 4:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
- Furman vs. Liberty – 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
The Cougars lost only one starter and added some offensive weapons from the transfer portal and were picked to finish first in the CAA. However, they are on shaky ground after two tough matchups to start the year.
Three Cougars are averaging over 10 points per game. The new parts are getting acclimated, but the loss to Duquesne shocked many. However, the Myrtle Beach Invitational can be a statement and stepping stone in moving forward.
This is an almost entirely new team. Losing four starters, Vermont was still picked to finish second in the American East. They had a nice win over Merrimack, then took on Platts State and dominated them, boosting the Catamounts’ numbers.
After two games, Vermont is averaging 79.5 points per game. This is high. The Catamounts are likelier to be averaging somewhere in the realm of 65 PPG.
Charleston will be a tough matchup. The player to watch is going to be TJ Long. He is currently leading this team in scoring after transferring from Fairfield. He averaged 10.5 PPG last year, and is off to a hot start, averaging 15.0 PPG while shooting 57.1% from 3-point range. Another boost to this team comes in Tarleton transfer Shamir Bogues. He has also contributed 13.5 PPG, an increase from his 9.5 PPG last year.
A common theme this year is a changing of the guard. The Billikens also fit this mold, losing only one starter in Gibson Jimerson. He was the clear leader of this team last year and dominated minutes.
Saint Louis comes at its opponents with speed with no prominent big man. They cut opponents to pieces in the paint with pull-ups, layups, and dunks.
Two transfers are making an impact for Saint Louis. The closest player to an experienced “big” is former Tulsa forward Tim Dalger. He comes off the bench and stretches the floor with his 6-foot-7 frame, averaging just under 10 PPG. The other player making a splash in the starting lineup is Portland transfer, Michael Meadows. He has seen a steady decline in his minutes as he struggles to produce. His best game came against Lincoln MO, where the Bilikens scored 102 points.
With Hunter Maldonado moving on to the NBA, Wyoming reloaded its height. This team will be a terror for many, as they have multiple lanky players. An impressive freshman, Cameron Manyawu, logged his first two double-doubles against Northern New Mexico and Cal Poly. In his first game, he put up 13 points and 10 rebounds, then in the second, he did not miss a shot from the floor, going 7-for-7 on his way to 19 points and 10 more boards.
Coach Jeff Linder did it again, as this team may be a top contender in the Mountain West. He brought in two impressive transfers who scored over 20 points in their first and 14 points in their second games. Sam Griffin and Akuel Kot are offensive weapons and enormous wings that open up the floor.
Coach Paul Mills changes teams and brings fresh air to his team. Losing four of five starters from last year, Mills was able to retain big man Kenny Pohto. After a couple of tough battles to start the year, the Shockers were able to trounce NAIA neighbor in Friends University. The team is looking to surprise the American as they were picked to finish eighth.
This team is similar to Wyoming in its build. They are playing two bigs, more often than not. Pohto, Quincy Ballard, and Jacob Germany are in rotation. Last year’s missed waiver, Colby Rogers, leads this team in scoring, averaging 16.0 PPG and shooting 42.1% from deep. Wichita State also has two impressive bench players, Isaac Abidde, who adds energy, and Dalen Ridgnal, who amps up the Shockers’ defense.
Coming in as the only team without playing a DI game, Coastal’s lone win was a back-and-forth against Piedmont (DIII). They brought home the win by two points, 88-86. The Chanticleers seemed turnover-prone and struggled with free-throw shooting. Henry Abraham, the only returning starter, ran the point, handing out five assists and five rebounds but only scoring off a single free throw.
The starting rotation has only two returners, and the other three starters are transfers or freshmen. Freshman Jacob Meyer logged the most minutes for the Chanticleers and struggled from beyond the arc, going 1-for-5, but ended up shooting 7-for-15 from the field on his way to 16 points. Duquesne transfer, Kevin Easley, was the offensive weapon, scoring 20 points, grabbing 9 rebounds, and handing out 3 assists. Easley shot 50% from the field and was a solid 72.7% from the charity stripe.
Coach Bob Richey is doing it again. After an excellent entry game, Furman came with the heat against Belmont. Starting three of the five starters from last year gives this team experience. They also added a shot creator in PJay Smith as a transfer from Lee (DII). Furman is very well-rounded and has meshed well.
Against Belmont, four of the five starters scored double-digits, as well as an off-the-bench freshman, Cooper Bowser. Bowser is averaging double-digits off the bench. Marcus Foster’s experience is also a massive boost for this team. He has been consistently scoring for the Paladins. Foster had 18 points and 16 points and grabbed 6 and 7 rebounds in the Paladin’s two games. His presence down low as a dump-off, a screen slipper, is boosting this Furman offense.
Ritchie McKay has been leaning on his forwards for scoring. The Flames have a surprise player coming off the bench as Brody Peebles is averaging double-digits. Outside of Peebles’ offense, Kyle Rode and Zach Cleveland are the two players flirting with double-digit scoring, and both are starting. It seems to be an almost hot-hand approach as the other forward, Shiloh Robinson, has been coming in and adding offensive consistency.
The lone transfer starting is Kaden Metheny out of Bowling Green. He quietly contributes points and some areas that do not appear on the stat sheet. The big surprise is the lack of Zander Yates, a Creighton transfer. It will be interesting to see how this team is in this tournament.
Myrtle Beach Invitational Predictions
First round: Charleston vs. Vermont
Charleston has already had some problematic matchups after losing most of its starters. This same issue goes into Vermont’s team as they also lost four starters. However, the Catamounts haven’t had the tests that the Cougars have. These teams should match up well, but Charleston has a slightly better offensive team. Seeing how these two matchup, this game is going to be a fun one.
First round: Saint Louis vs. Wyoming
It is one of the more enjoyable matchups as Saint Louis is backcourt heavy, while Wyoming is frontcourt heavy. The Cowboys will dominate in size, while the Billikens hope to come up with breakaways and quickness. The worry for Saint Louis will be their need to sink threes to spread the floor, as the bigger players may struggle in their defensive coverage.
First round: Wichita State vs. Coastal Carolina
Wichita State has the size and quickness here against Coastal Carolina. The rotation for Wichita State will cause some issues for the Chanticleers as the team can switch between a two-big look and a four-guard style of play. Coach Paul Mills looks to use these games as a stepping stone and unite this team. Coastal Carolina will have some rounds, and if they get hot, they could pull off the upset.
Wichita State wins
First round: Furman vs. Liberty
It’s another fun matchup, as these two teams match up well. However, Furman has already shown they have offensive weapons that dominated in their first two games. The Paladins had four of five starters score double-digits in their last game, and four players averaged double-digit scoring in two games. Meanwhile, Liberty has three players in double-digit scoring, but the consistency comes from two players in Peebles and Rode. Furman should run away with it, but the Flames could always surprise.
Second round: Charleston vs. Wyoming
These two teams are likely going to be setting off fireworks. It’s a great matchup. However, again, the nod goes to Wyoming. Coach Linder has a very impressive freshman and the team is coming together. The worry is how they decide to try and break the zone that Pat Kelsey will likely force them into and keep them from the easy shots that the Cowboys are so used to. The Cougars will have their struggles as the size will be intimidating but manageable.
Second round: Wichita State vs. Furman
Another tremendous mid-major matchup, these teams both have had some challenging games. Some bias may come into play here, but Wichita State has overcome tougher matchups. If this Shocker defense shows up and can keep a slower pace, Furman may not find a rhythm. However, Furman has shown their offense is something to be feared, as they haven’t scored under 84 points this year. Meanwhile, the Shockers’ two DI opponents held Wichita State to 76 and 71 points. Wichita State held those opponents to 59 and 61 points. The 61-point game may be a fluke since Western Kentucky went 0-for-21 from 3-point range. This game is genuinely a coin flip.
Championship Game: Wyoming vs. Furman
Coming to the Myrtle Beach Invitational climax, this game will come down to coaching. Coach Richey will be prepared and have his team ready to open this game offensively. The Cowboys will struggle to get the ball moving and must try to slow down the game. Unfortunately, Wyoming’s talent and height won’t be enough to stifle the Paladin offense. The Paladins’ ball movement will create open shots and cause issues.