NICEVILLE, FLA. – A college basketball fan need not to look any further that this year’s NCAA Tournament field to see why the Emerald Coast Classic has earned the reputation of being one of the premier preseason college basketball tournaments in the country.
For the second straight time in the five-year history of the tournament, this year’s classic, set for Nov. 29-30, will have four teams which advanced to the NCAA Tournament from the previous season.
Nationally ranked Tennessee, Florida State, Purdue and VCU, who headline the 2019 field, will play in the NCAA Tournament, which opens this, Thursday and Friday.
If that’s not enough four teams which played in the 2018 Emerald Coast Classic also earned berths in March Madness this week: Cincinnati, Ole Miss, Baylor, North Carolina Central.
The Volunteers (29-5) earned a program-best No. 2 seed for the third time ever in the NCAA Tournament (also in 2006 and 2008) and will travel to Columbus, Ohio, played 15th seed Colgate on Friday in the South Region.
This is Tennessee’s 22nd all-time NCAA Tournament appearance, while Vols head coach Rick Barnes—a National Coach of the Year candidate for the second consecutive season—is making his 24th appearance as a head coach.
Tennessee enjoyed a school-record 19-game winning streak, a program-record-tying three victories over top-five opponents and the second most victories in a single season in program history.
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
Florida State, ranked No. 10 in the latest Associated Press poll, tied a school record with 27 wins, reached last week’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final and have won 14 of its last 16 games.
The Seminoles are in the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season, and the seventh time in 11 years. The fourth-seeded Seminoles will meet No. 13 Vermont on Thursday in Hartford, Conn.
Making its fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, Purdue was awarded the No. 3 seed in the South Region and will play No. 14-seeded Old Dominion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Hartford, Conn., Thursday, in Hartford, Conn. on TBS.
The Boilermakers, who are ranked No. 13 in the latest Associated Press poll, enter the tournament with a 23-9 overall record and as champions of the Big Ten regular-season race. Purdue has won 17 of its last 21 games and own the nation’s fifth-ranked offense in offensive efficiency.
Purdue is making its 31st trip overall and fifth in a row, one of 10 teams nationally to make five consecutive appearances.
VCU is a No. 8 seed and will play No. 9 seed Central Florida Friday in Columbia, S.C. in the East Region.
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.
With a 25-7 overall record and a 16-2 league record, the Rams boast one of the top defenses in the country, only allowing 61.2 points per game
Cincinnati, which captured the 2018 Emerald Coast Classic championship, is making its ninth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and 33rd overall, when the Bearcats play Iowa in the first round of the South Region in Columbus, Ohio. No. 22 ranked Cincinnati (28-6) is the region’s No. 7 seed. Iowa (22-11) is the No. 10 seed.
The Bearcats whipped then No. 11 ranked Houston, 69-57, in the championship of the American Athletic Conference to earn an automatic berth in the Big Dance.
Ole Miss, which finished runner-up in the 2018 Emerald Coast Classic, along with North Carolina Central-another 2018 ECC, also are in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Ole Miss, was picked to finish last in the Southeastern Conference this season, but registered one of the biggest turnaround seasons in college basketball by advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years after posting a 20-12 record. The Rebels earned the No. 8 seed in the South Region where they’ll face No. 9 Oklahoma on Friday in Columbia, South Carolina. Ole Miss first-year skipper Kermit Davis was recently named the SEC Coach of the Year.
Baylor, making its fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in six seasons since 2012, faces Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament first round Thursday on truTV from Salt Lake City, Utah. The Bears, who stand 19-10, are a No. 9 seed, and is seeking its 10th 20-win season in the last 12 years.
North Carolina Central earned its third straight berth in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament for the third consecutive year. The Eagles closed out the season with an 18-16 record after falling to North Dakota State, 78-74, in the First Four Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio.