AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s basketball brand continues to grow under head coach Bruce Pearl, and the fast-rising program is now scheduled to play in one of the sport’s most recognizable tournaments.
The Maui Invitational Tournament announced Wednesday that Auburn will be one of eight Division I teams in the event’s 2018 edition, which will take place November 19-21 at the Lahaina Civic Center in Lahaina, Hawaii.
The Tigers will join some of college basketball’s premier programs — Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga, Illinois, Iowa State, San Diego State and Xavier — in the famous early-season tournament. Auburn has never played in the Maui Invitational, which has been held every year since 1984.
“The Maui Invitational in the last 25 years has been college basketball’s most prestigious tournament in the country,” Pearl said in a release from Auburn. “It is reserved for the elite. I want to thank Dave Odom and the committee for taking my word on the fact that we would have our program ready and as important, fill up half the gym … That is the requirement to be invited to Maui, you have to fill up half the gym.”
This will be Pearl’s second trip to the Maui Invitational, as he served as an assistant at Iowa in 1987 when the Hawkeyes won the tournament under head coach Dr. Tom Davis.
“We have to be ready,” Pearl said. “It is two years out. I promised them we would be ready. It is a step in the direction to try to be relevant.”
Before the Tigers head to Maui in two seasons, they will test themselves in several other high-profile nonconference tournaments and showcases. Auburn is scheduled to play in the Cancun Challenge in Mexico, the Under Armour Reunion vs. Boston College in New York City’s Madison Square Garden and the Hall of Fame Showcase vs. Oklahoma in Springfield, Mass. this season.
But the ESPN-televised Maui Invitational in 2018 will be a new high point for Auburn in terms of regular-season stages.
“The field is one of the best they have ever had along with all of the Hall of Fame coaches, every NBA scout and NBA general managers who will be there,” Pearl said. “It is quite a festival.”