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An early look At UNC’s Maui Invitational bracket

The 2016 Maui Invitational bracket was released Tuesday, and features three potential top-10 teams. Here’s an early look at the challenges awaiting the Heels in Maui.

UNC in Maui
The Tar Heels Last Trip To Maui In 2012

The bracket for the loaded 2016 Maui Invitational was released on Tuesday, with the Tar Heels slated to face host Chaminade in the opening round.

2016 Maui Invitational Bracket
2016 Maui Invitational Bracket

While the Tar Heels should easily dispatch of the Silverswords, it should be noted that they return four of their five leading scorers from a year ago, including their leading scorer, a 6’7” wing named “Kuany Kuany.” I’m not putting the Heels on upset alert or anything, but we should all accept that Mr. Kuany will be dropping a cool 30 on the good guys.

The task will get much more difficult from there, with either Oklahoma State or UConn awaiting them in the semifinals. Should the Huskies live up to their likely top-25 ranking, they’ll present an interesting challenge for the Tar Heels. Former NC State guard Rodney Purvis is a familiar face on the wing, returning to UConn for his senior season after leading the Huskies in scoring a year ago. In the paint, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks will face a stiff early challenge, as UConn center Amida Brimah is one of the nation’s elite rim protectors (5.14 Blocks per 40 Minutes in 2015-2016).

Regardless of the outcome of the semifinal game, the Tar Heels are likely to face a fellow top-10 team in their final game, with Oregon and Wisconsin slated to meet on the other side of the bracket. Much like UNC, both teams welcome back star players who initially flirted with the NBA Draft, and both enter the season as legit Final Four contenders. Former Carolina target Bronson Koenig teams with forwards Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ to lead the Badgers, while Oregon welcomes back Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey, and Chris Boucher. Whichever matchup comes to fruition (either for Gold or Bronze), the third game in Maui presents the Heels a chance for a resume-building win.

We’ll break down the field in more detail as the event draws near, but at first glance, the Tar Heels look to be in for some great early-season tests. Is Isaiah Hicks ready for his increased role? Is this officially Joel Berry’s team? Can Justin Jackson take on the role of go-to perimeter scorer? We’ll have a good idea by Thanksgiving Day.

At the very least, we’ll get three days of sunburned Roy Williams in a Carolina Blue Hawaiian shirt, and a behind-the-scenes video of Kennedy Meeks on a water slide; and for that, we should all be thankful.