2022 Men's Baha Mar Hoops Championship

Baha Mar Nassau Championship: Stacked Field Of Mid-Majors And Potential

Baha Mar Nassau Championship: Stacked Field Of Mid-Majors And Potential

The field at the Baha Mar Hoops Championship will have the pedigree and talent capable of becoming a mid-major spoiler in March Madness.

Nov 11, 2022 by Briar Napier
Baha Mar Nassau Championship: Stacked Field Of Mid-Majors And Potential

One of the best parts about holiday college basketball tournaments is checking them out, being impressed by an under-the-radar team you watch, then catching them again four months later when they're busting brackets in the NCAA Tournament.

Sure enough, at the Baha Mar Hoops Championship later this month in a sunny island paradise, the eight teams in the field have the pedigree and talent to potentially become a mid-major spoiler down the line in March Madness.

But before those programs can end a blue-blood's hopes and dreams, they first must test their mettle against each other, in their own leagues and against their own kind in tournaments like the Nassau Championship. To be the best, you must beat the best, after all.

Every underdog story starts somewhere, and for whichever school emerges on top in The Bahamas, it may just be the foundation they need to kickstart a historic season.

Here's a look at some of the teams, players and matchups to watch out for at the Baha Mar Hoops Nassau Championship. The event will be held at the Baha Mar Convention Center in the Bahamas from Nov. 25-27, and all of the competition will be streamed live on FloHoops.

NOTE: All tipoff times are listed in Eastern Time and are subject to change.

Teams To Watch

It's a bit ironic that the Nassau Championship is being held during the week of Thanksgiving, because it is a high-level feast of talented mid-majors. 

And, keep tabs on the teams that'll be in the Bahamas for this event, as some of them could end up busting brackets a few months down the line. 

Perhaps the first school that catches the eye of those who view the bracket for the first time is Vermont, which hasn't won less than 20 games in a season (besides the COVID-ravaged 2020-2021 campaign, when it played just 15 games) since 2008-2009. 

A constant presence in the NCAA Tournament out of the America East, coach John Becker has won over 250 games with the Catamounts since taking over the program in 2011. He has won five conference titles as the sideline leader of one of New England's proudest and most storied college hoops teams since the turn of the century. 

Then there's North Texas, which has been turned around into a serious contender year after year in Conference USA, as sixth-year head man Grant McCasland is one of the country's fastest-rising stars of the coaching game. 

The Mean Green haven't won less than 18 games in any season of McCasland's tenure - and even that year was during the pandemic-affected 2020-2021 season, with a trip to the second round of March Madness to boot, upsetting Purdue in the opening round as a No. 13 seed. 

And what about the historic year UNC Wilmington is coming off? In one of the nation's best turnarounds, the Seahawks went from 7-10 in 2020-2021 to 27-9 in 2021-2022, riding a wave of momentum under reigning Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year Takayo Siddle all the way to postseason hardware - a College Basketball Invitational title. 

There certainly are a lot of things to like regarding just about every program in the Nassau Championship field, but judging by the accomplishments the teams above have earned recently, they've definitely earned their kudos.

Players To Watch

There are bound to be several players on Nassau Championship squads who will break out and be star contributors over the course of the 2022-2023 season, but thus far in the season's early goings, there are a few who have earned recognition and have the skills to make a major difference for their teams in the tournament. 

At North Texas, with the Mean Green gunning for another trip to the NCAA Tournament, they return their leading scorer from last season, guard Tylor Perry (13.5 points per game), who was named to the Conference USA first-team and was named the league's Sixth Man of the Year. 

The biggest X-factor in the 5-foot-11 senior's game? He's got the clutch gene.

Perry made game-winning or game-tying 3-pointers in the final seconds of five games last year, being the Mean Green's go-to man when the game was on the line. 

Meanwhile at Oakland - which plays Long Beach State in the first round (Nov. 25 at 8 p.m.) - the Golden Grizzlies have one of the nation's top offensive creators in senior guard Jalen Moore, a two-time Horizon League first-team pick who averaged 15.5 points and 7.7 assists last year, the latter category of which was the second-most assists per game of any player in the country. 

He'll square off with the Beach's best in senior guard Joel Murray, Long Beach's reigning scoring champ (16.7 points per night) and a revelation for the program in his first season since making the jump from the Division II level, where he led West Texas A&M to a national title in three seasons there. 

Also, keep an eye on the Ball State offense in its first-round matchup with Vermont. 

Yes, the Cardinals may have done it against a D-III school, but scoring 109 points in a season opener is impressive, no matter how you slice it, especially when six players score in double figures. 

Not only that, but a player who didn't score in double digits in that game, Jarron Coleman, might be the team's best offensive threat. He made his return to the program this offseason, following a year at Missouri and two years after he averaged 13.8 points and 5.2 boards per game for the Cardinals.

Game To Watch

Missouri State vs. UNC Wilmington, Nov. 25 at 2:30 p.m.

The Bears and Seahawks find themselves as mid-majors caught up in similar early-season positions. 

Both programs were very strong a season ago, with UNCW's rise from the CAA basement already discussed, and Missouri State coming off a dogfight in the always-tough Missouri Valley Conference title race for most of the regular season with Northern Iowa, Loyola Chicago and Drake. 

But both teams are missing significant pieces of their identities and likely will need to discover what works - trial-by-fire style - leading up to, or even during, the trip to the islands. 

For the Seahawks, their top two scorers from a season ago, who were ginormous pieces in their historic title run - guards Jaylen Sims and Mike Okauru - are gone from the program, giving Siddle arguably the toughest test of his young tenure in his third season in charge. 

Finding out how to replace major pieces of the UNCW identity. 

As for the Bears, both of their All-Missouri Valley Conference first-team picks in Isiaih Mosley and Gaige Prim also left Springfield for other pastures. Mosley now plays for rival Missouri in his hometown of Columbia, while Prim left the college game to go pro. He plays ball in South Korea. 

For MSU coach Dana Ford, there's also a challenge in finding quality replacements for the production his team lost, but after coming off his strongest year yet (23 wins) in his four full seasons in Springfield, there's also plenty to be confident about in terms of the shape and direction of the program. 

All of it leads to the Bears-Seahawks matchup in the first round of the Nassau Championship being a must-watch. It's rising mid-major coaching stars, entertaining offenses (both teams averaged over 72 points per game a year ago) and plenty of transfers, mixed with key returners, giving new-look edges to each squad. 

Expect some fireworks on the islands with this showdown - and it's not even a championship game.