Published: January 29, 2014
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ST. THOMAS - Clemson, Louisiana State and Seton Hall will headline next winter's Paradise Jam men's basketball tournament at the University of the Virgin Islands, while the women's field will be highlighted once again by some of the biggest names in the country.
The field will be formally announced next week, but the teams have been confirmed by promoter Basketball Travelers Inc.
The event, one of the highlights of the V.I.'s sporting calendar, will be back for its 15th edition later this year with the men's tournament taking place the week before Thanksgiving, Nov. 21-24.
Gardner Webb, Illinois State, Nevada, Old Dominion and Weber State will round out the men's field.
The women's tournament, which will again feature a pair of four-team brackets called the Reef and Island divisions, is Nov. 27-29.
The field features Kentucky, currently ranked No. 13 in the country by the Associated Press, along with Clemson, Illinois, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, South Florida and Wichita State.
All of the brackets will be determined after the current college basketball season, according to tournament spokesman Sean Christensen.
The field appears to be on a par with last season's: No real Final Four contenders in the mix, but a few major conference schools capable of earning bids to the NCAA Tournament, in addition to frisky mid-majors and other Division I programs to round out the field.
At No. 61 in this week's Ratings Percentage Index, LSU is currently the top-rated team in next season's event.
Coach Johnny Jones' Tigers were 12-6 heading into Tuesday night's game against Kentucky, and feature Johnny O'Bryant III who leads the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game as a junior, and freshman Jordan Mickey, who is averaging 13 points.
Clemson, coached by Brad Brownell, is No. 79 in RPI, a key measure used in ranking college basketball teams and determining the NCAA Tournament field.
Clemson (13-6) is led this season by junior forward K.J. McDaniels, who is averaging 16.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Seton Hall is just 12-8 this season but help could be on the way, as there is a lot of hype surrounding coach Kevin Willard's incoming recruiting class.
The class is highlighted by New York's Isaiah Whitehead, a signee tabbed the No. 14 player nationally by Rivals.com in the Class of 2014.
And in a college basketball landscape sometimes dominated by freshman, Whitehead along with expected team member Angel Delgado could steal the Paradise Jam show in November. Delgade, who has not yet signed with the Pirates, is rated the No. 44 player in this year's high school senior class.
Old Dominion is a familiar name to the territory, as the Monarchs won the Paradise Jam in 2010 and are making their third appearance on St. Thomas. Seton Hall and Clemson also were in the field in 2010.
The other five teams are making their inaugural appearance in the event.
Maryland won the Paradise Jam in November, topping Providence in the final.
The Friars, however, could have the 2013 field's best chance of reaching the NCAA Tournament this year, with a 15-5 record and an RPI rating of No. 43.
Joe Lunardi of ESPN has Providence among the "Last Four In" for his NCAA Tournament projections.
In addition, the Hofstra men's basketball team has announced plans to play in the 2015 event on its athletics website.
As for the women, Kentucky is 16-4 and led in scoring by junior point guard Jennifer O'Neill, who leads the Wildcats with 12.7 points per game in mostly bench duty this season.
Kentucky appeared in the 2004 Paradise Jam, finishing 1-2.
- Contact Daily News Sports Editor Matt Schoch at 714-9117 or email email@example.com.Men's tournament, Nov. 21-24
Clemson, Atlantic Coast Conference, record: 13-6
Gardner Webb, Big South Conference, 10-11
Illinois State, Missouri Valley Conference, 11-9
Louisiana State, Southeastern Conference, 12-6
Nevada, Mountain West Conference, 10-10
Old Dominion, Conference USA, 10-10
Seton Hall, Big East Conference, 12-8
Weber State, Big Sky Conference, 10-6
Women's tournaments, Nov. 27-29
Clemson, Atlantic Coast Conference, record: 10-11
Illinois, Big Ten Conference, 9-11
Kentucky, Southeastern Conference, 16-4
Mississippi State, Southeastern Conference, 15-6
Ohio State, Big Ten Conference, 13-10
Oklahoma, Big 12 Conference, 13-7
South Florida, American Athletic Conference, 10-9
Wichita State, Missouri Valley Conference, 16-2
- 2013-14 records entering Tuesday