Northwestern basketball playing in Las Vegas Invitational vs. UCLA, Missouri, Nevada

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Vivaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Chris Collins! Northwestern's heading to the 2013 Las Vegas Invitational, likely to play either UCLA or Mizzou. It's probably the best preseason tourney NU has participated in of late.

We sort of already touched on this - NONE of you liked my "Chier and Lumpkin in Las Vegas" joke? - but now it's official:

My initial response: Hoooooly RPI, you guys! One would have to imagine Missouri and UCLA will be on separate sides of the bracket, so Northwestern will be playing one of them, with the other team playing Nevada. The initial scan shows that Northwestern will be playing one of two power-type teams from big conferences, but that obviously doesn't tell the whole story: as we said when discussing Drew Crawford's transfer options, Mizzou's doing some rebuilding, and UCLA was a Shabazz Mohammed-heavy team this past year that is now without Shabazz Mohammed, and like Northwestern will be trying to find their identity under a new coach, Steve Alford. That said, both are sure to be strong squads and could be marquee non-conference wins for Northwestern. Nevada was Kenpom 181 this past year, so if NU loses, they'll presumably be the team Northwestern plays against.

I daresay this is the best field of any preseason tourney Northwestern has played in. The only one I can even think of was the Chicago Invitational Challenge a few years back, where NU had to beat Luke Harangody and Notre Dame, followed by Craig Brackins and Iowa State. The South Padre Invitational this past year was... well, sub-par, considering how Illinois State turned out, although TCU had that one win against Kansas. The year before was the Charleston Classic, where LSU, Tulsa, and Seton Hall were middle-tier-y. We played St. John's at the MSG Holiday Festival a few years back.

Copy paste from my earlier post:

It's weird how many ways the Chris Collins thing has effected Northwestern basketball positively in the first month or so since it was announced. We've heard about the increased recruiting and we've seen the overwhelmingly positive fan reaction, but, man, we're even a more marketable sell for scheduling. How crazy is that?

This also shows a dedication to routinely playing strong opponents, which Loretta8 wrote was a worry of his about Northwestern's new coaching staff.

The Las Vegas Invitational is in Orleans Arena - think, the WCC Tournament, not the Mountain West (Thomas and Mack Center) or the Pac-12 (MGM Grand). Last year's field featured Arizona State, Arkansas, Creighton, and Wisconsin - two NCAA squads, one an NIT team - and the year before saw UNLV upset then-No. 1 UNC behind 16 points and 18 boards from Mike Moser.

The good Northwestern basketball vibes continue under Chris Collins. Hopefully it continues with, you know, basketball! NU will need a little bit of Lady Luck to go dancing this year, so here's hoping they pick some up in Vegas, and also maybe to Alex Olah randomly winning $82,000 in a random hot streak in craps.

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