Bracket, preview, odds, picks and predictions

Often lost amid the pandemonium that is party week, the ESPN Events Invitational is an underrated side dish to the multitude of elite entrees served up all week and weekends.

Formerly known as the AdvoCare Invitational (aka Pyramid Scheme Classic), it admittedly misses the headliners of the national title contenders that Phil Knight roped in for his birthday.

However, there is a lot of meat on this bone.

This event is also often the warm comfort blanket which helps with the withdrawals of the holiday week. Sunday’s championship round offers some peace with Maui and Atlantis on the books.

Of course, with both PK85 brackets mirroring ESPN’s event schedule, this one may stay off the radar for most fans.

However, this should not be the case for bettors. A Future stands out as a major value play, and several play-by-play bets should also be worth it.

Invitational Support for ESPN 2022 Events

2022 ESPN Events Invitational Odds

Uh, phew. It’s hard to find nice things to say about the Seminoles, who are currently 1-4 overall and ATS. They suffered outright losses at home to Stetson and Troy.

If Louisville weren’t actively self-immolating on national television, the Noles’ futility would get a lot more attention.

Of course, FSU’s struggles are slightly more understandable.

Brown transfer Jaylan Gainey, expected to be a key part of the frontcourt rotation, is out for the year with a knee injury. Freshman Jeremiah Bembry is still working after a knee injury. And freshman Baba Miller is in NCAA-imposed timeout due to rules misunderstanding.

Still, there are clear problems here. FSU lacks the NBA talent at the lottery level that has underpinned its success over the years. The playmaker is an alarming void currently being filled by the scoring wings. And the typically stingy switch defense was slashed to ribbons.

I don’t think we currently know how bad those Seminoles are. Have they hit rock bottom? Or is it yet to come to Orlando?

The Siena conference, the MAAC, serves as the league sponsor of the event. Thus, he always sends a representative to this tournament which is otherwise populated by power conference luminaries.

Do you remember Iona beating Alabama last season? It was at the ESPN Events Invitational.

Will these saints experience the same success? They certainly landed the right game to start with as FSU looks very vulnerable to kick off the year. After all, Siena is ranked 254th in KenPom at the time of this writing. Stetson, who won at Florida State, is 253rd.

Stylistically, the Saints want to play through talented big man Jackson Stormo at the post or through second-year guard Javian McCollum attacking in the ball screens.

Both paths could be risky against FSU’s athleticism, as could Siena’s non-existent home defense (currently 341st nationally in 2-point defense percentage).

The precision of the perimeter of the Saints will have to make the difference. They are currently 18th in the nation in 3-point percentage, with former UNC transfer Andrew Platek and winger Jayce Johnson leading at 50% apiece.

Stetson beat FSU shooting over the top (14 triples made). His must do the same.

The Rebels have looked lively so far this year. Kermit Davis’ team is off to an undefeated 4-0 start, including a solid victory over Florida Atlantic.

Even more impressively, the Rebels did so without point guard Daeshun Ruffin, who is suffering from a bruised bone. His status is unclear for this event, but even if he can’t play, freshman guards TJ Caldwell and Amaree Abram have gained valuable experience thus far.

Above all, the Rebels have stabilized their interior defense compared to last season. The 2021-22 Rebels ranked 302nd nationally in 2-point defensive percentage, according to KenPom. This year’s version is 26th in the same stat.

Upward transfers Theo Akwuba (Louisiana), Jayveous McKinnis (Jackson State) and Myles Burns (NAIA Loyola-New Orleans) have all had an impact on this end of the field.

The Cardinal could be in for a breakthrough year for head coach Jerod Haase. The first feedback on this subject is not conclusive.

Stanford did the right thing: beat Pacific and Cal Poly. The Cardinal fell to Wisconsin and San Diego State in their first major Tests, with both losses coming in double digits.

NBA prospect Harrison Ingram has been mediocre, shooting just 34% from the field. Quite simply, Stanford can’t match high-level competition if Ingram is a non-entity on offense.

Spencer Jones and Michael Jones attempted to take over.

The “brothers” (they’re not related at all) are deadly deep, and Spencer is getting back into shape after missing the season opener with injury. He eventually returned to the starting lineup against Cal Poly and averaged 12.5 points per game over the past two.

The opening night loss to Sam Houston was an eyesore, no doubt. The results since then, however, have been encouraging.

OU held off a pesky Arkansas-Pine Bluff team and beat two solid mid-majors at UNC Wilmington and South Alabama. Plus, Sam Houston won at Utah and remains undefeated – maybe it wasn’t a bad loss after all.

Porter Moser’s team has talent, but getting the pieces to fit together correctly has always been a challenge. Transfer guards Grant Sherfield and Joe Bamisile both dominate the ball, but the attack works best when it passes through star center Tanner Groves.

The offense remains a work in progress.

Nebraska has been far from perfect this season, but they’ve avoided losing a buy game so far. Considering the Cornhuskers have lost five in the past three seasons, that’s worth noting.

Still, Fred Hoiberg’s side are a step (or three) behind in the Big Ten. The Huskers’ three buy-game wins have all come against teams ranked 329th or worse by KenPom, and they’ve only covered one of those contests.

Most embarrassingly, St. John’s eviscerated the Huskers in the second half at Queens to the tune of 50-23.

Key forward Derrick Walker has been out due to an unspecified health issue, and he would certainly help bolster the Huskers’ interior.

But the biggest problem has been the perimeter game. Nebraska is less than 30 percent from beyond the arc so far — a disastrous formula against some of the strong defenses the Huskers will see in Orlando.

Penny Hardaway’s Tigers continue their early season challenge in Orlando. They have yet to face an opponent outside of KenPom’s top 100, picking up wins over Vanderbilt and VCU while losing to St. Louis.

Already one of the most experienced teams in the country, Memphis enters the tournament battle-tested.

Kendric Davis has stabilized the playmaker spot and the Tigers defense looks solid again.

However, the numbers can be inflated when facing a VCU team that was missing star point guard Ace Baldwin.

Under new boss Shaheen Holloway, the Pirates became a defensive terror. Against three medium-sized foes, Seton Hall allowed 0.66, 0.65, and 0.69 points per possession. This is suffocation to the highest degree.

Of course, the Iowa supernova attack burned the Pirates for 1.19 points per possession, so they’re not immortal. To compare any offense in this area to that of Iowa, however, would be folly.

The Pirates are long and athletic, and Holloway is a fantastic defensive mind. However, Dre Davis missed Seton Hall’s last win and Alexis Yetna is yet to play this season.

ESPN Events Invitational Betting Angles

“Auto-fade Florida State” is probably too easy, but it’s tempting. The Noles managed to (barely) cover a game heading into this tournament, beating Mercer by nine as the 7-point favorite.

KenPom and Bart Torvik’s T-Rank has the FSU/Siena line at nine and eight, respectively. I’m far from confident in my own FSU rating, so I might be risking half a unit.

Seton Hall and Memphis should be a rock fight efficiency-wise, but the tempo could be high. Both teams are likely to push the tempo, which scares me below.

Future recommendations

I could make a compelling case that the Memphis opener against Seton Hall features the two best teams in the field. Oklahoma lost to Sam Houston, but the Sooners can be tough too. So the value must be on the other side of the parenthesis.

Considering Florida State’s weaknesses, this half looks very vulnerable. The Seminoles are ridiculously poorly rated at +325 – Ole Miss and Stanford are clearly better teams at this point.

Either the Rebels (+500) or the Cardinal (+700) seem worth a bet due to their path to the title game. I prefer Ole Miss and his revamped defense.

ESPN Event Invitational Picks

  • Siena small vs FSU (a bit on the moneyline)
  • Ole Miss or Stanford wearing up 5 in second round against FSU
  • Ole Miss wins the +500 tournament