For the second consecutive year, Virginia Tech's basketball team has ventured outside the United States in the dead of winter to a tropical destination. While the Hokies got some sun and fun out of the trips, they also got a game against a team from one of college basketball's six power conferences.
In return, they serves as the guinea pig for venues trying to break into the sometimes-lucrative business of exempt college basketball events.
The success of the Maui Invitational and to a lesser extent the Great Alaska Shootout has spawned several eight-team exempt in-season tournaments. The key for any of these events, like the 76 Classic in Anaheim, is to become on exempt tournament, meaning playing there only counts as one game toward a team's maximum of 27 regular season games.
Tech's last game was against Mississippi State at the Atlantis resort in The Bahamas. It was a part of a doubleheader put on by the resort in hopes of hosting an exempt tournament next season. Seth Greenberg and the rest of the participants in the Battle at Atlantis were impressed with the event, which drew a sellout crowd of over 3,000. How impressed was Greenberg? He compared it to the Granddaddy of exempt tournaments:
"This has the potential to be something really, really special," Greenberg said. "This has the chance to be the eastern seaboard's version of Maui."
If the Battle at Atlantis does become exempt, it will be the second tournament in as many years that successfully used the Hokies as a trial balloon. Last year, they played Seton Hall in a one-game Cancun Governor's Cup.
That event will have its semifinals Thursday and is in its first year as an eight-team exempt tournament. The tournament is put on by ESPN Plus Syndication, the same group that put on the 76 Classic, which the Hokies participated in this year.
The advantages for the Hokies playing in this tournament are that the events are going to roll out the red carpet to make a good impression in hopes of securing the exemption. Also, the idea of playing in places like The Bahamas and Cancun while Blacksburg is covered in snow is a good one to sell to recruits.