NICEVILLE, FLA. – A college basketball fan need not to look any further than 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.
Two of the top three overall seeds — Baylor (No. 2) and Illinois (No. 3) — in the 68-team NCAA Tournament field have participated in the Emerald Coast Classic. Baylor was third in the 2018 Emerald Coast Classic. Illinois was runner-up in the 2015 tournament and was scheduled to play in the 2020 Emerald Coast Classic.
Both Oregon State (17-12)and LSU (18-9), which will play in the seventh edition of the Emerald Coast Classic Nov. 26-27, are also in the NCAA Tournament. The Beavers, who captured the PAC-12 Conference Tournament championship, are a No. 12 seed playing No. 5 seed Tennessee Friday. LSU, runner-up in the SEC Tournament, is a No. 8 seed meeting No. 9 seed St. Bonaventure Saturday.
In all, there are 12 schools participating in the 2021 NCAA Tournament that have a past history of playing in the Emerald Coast Classic.
The 2020 Emerald Coast Classic which had to be canceled because of the pandemic, featured two other teams—besides Illinois-—that will compete in the 2021 NCAA Tournament in Nos. 7 seeds Florida (South Region) and Oregon (West Region).
“We thought that the field that we had in our 2020 tournament was the best four-team tournament in college basketball,” said tournament director Maury Hanks. “We will continue to bring the best teams possible to the Emerald Coast.”
On Friday Illinois plays No. 16 seed Drexel Friday, while Florida meets No. 10 seed Virginia Tech, which finished third in the 2015 Emerald Coast Classic. Oregon is a No. 7 seed in the West Region.
All four teams which played in the 2019 Emerald Coast Classic also were selected to the NCAA Tournament headed by champion Florida State, which is a No. 4 seed facing No. 13 seed UNC Greensboro Saturday.
Purdue, runner-up in the 2019 Emerald Coast Classic, is a No.4 seed in the South Region tangling with No. 13 seed North Texas Friday. Tennessee, which finished third in the 2019 tournament, is a No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region. No. 10 seed VCU, also a 2019 Emerald Coast participant, meets Oregon Saturday.
“When you look at the past history of teams in the Emerald Coast Classic it only validates the strength of our tournament and why coaches and teams like participating in the event,” Hanks added. “Every year we’ve held the tournament it has gotten better and better.”
Iowa, a No. 2 seed in the West Region, played in the 2016 Emerald Coast Classic. Virginia, which captured the 2016 Emerald Coast Classic, is a No. 4 seed in the West Region.
St. Bonaventure was runner-up in the 2017 Emerald Coast Classic. Creighton, which finished third in the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic in 2014, is a No 5 seed in the West Region playing No. 12 seed UC Santa Barbara Saturday.