NICEVILLE, FLA. – With NCAA Tournament March Madness in high gear, local college basketball fans are counting down the number of days until the Emerald Coast Classic Nov. 29-30.
Florida State, Purdue and Tennessee, which have advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen this weekend, headline the field for the sixth annual college basketball tournament which will be held at the Arena at Northwest Florida State Thanksgiving weekend. VCU, which captured the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season title, and advanced to the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, also will compete.
Florida State (29-7) will face No. 1 ranked Gonzaga (32-3) in the semifinal round of the NCAA West Region in Anaheim, Calif. Thursday.
Tennessee (31-5) plays Purdue (25-9) in the semifinal round of the NCAA South Region in Louisville, Ky. Thursday.
This will mark the second straight year the Emerald Coast Classic will have four teams which advanced to the NCAA Tournament from the previous season,
“Since we started this tournament, it has always been a goal to make the Emerald Coast Classic one of the premier preseason college basketball tournaments in the country,” said tournament director Maury Hanks. “What these teams (Florida State, Purdue, Tennessee, VCU) have accomplished this season only enhances the quality of our tournament field.
“The showing by these teams has generated a lot of enthusiasm for our tournament from local area fans. We’ll be cheering for these teams to make it to the Final Four.”
Cincinnati, Ole Miss, Baylor, North Carolina Central which played in the 2018 Emerald Coast Classic also earned berths in March Madness last week
Tennessee earned a program-best No. 2 seed, while enjoying a school-record 19-game winning streak and a program-record-tying three victories over top-five opponents
The Vols spent four weeks ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings, and for the first time in program history, Tennessee spent the entire season ranked among the top 10
Vols head coach Rick Barnes was named the 2018-19 National Coach of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association of America
Florida State, ranked No. 10 in the final Associated Press poll, has posted a school record with 29 wins, winning 16 of its last 18 games. The Seminoles are in the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season, and the seventh time in 11 years.
Purdue, awarded the No. 3 seed in the South Region, were ranked No. 13 in the final Associated Press poll. The Boilermakers won the Big Ten Conference regular-season race and have won 19 of their last 23 games, while owning the nation’s fifth-ranked offense in offensive efficiency.
Purdue is one of 10 teams nationally to make five consecutive appearances.
VCU shattered expectations this season by winning the Atlantic 10 Conference regular season title. The Rams, led by A-10 Coach of the Year Mike Rhoades, were predicted to finish seventh in the conference in the preseason poll.
Global Sports has produced 43 multi-team college basketball tournaments in the past 11 years.
Emerald Coast Classic History
2018 — Cincinnati, champion: Mississippi, runner-up
2017 — TCU, champion; St. Bonaventure, runner-up
2016 — Virginia, champion; Providence, runner-up
2015 — Iowa State, champion; Illinois, runner-up
2014 — Mississippi, champion; Cincinnati, runner-up