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Hawaii In Appalachia: 2020 Maui Invitational Relocated To Asheville Due To Pandemic

Matt Bush
Blue Ridge Public Radio

The organizers of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, one of the most prestigious and well-known men's college basketball tournaments, have announced the 2020 edition will be played at the Harrah's Cherokee Center Asheville due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NCAA earlier this week announced this fall's college basketball season will start the day before Thanksgiving.  Because of safety and travel considerations, the Maui Invitational is being moved to the mainland from where it is typically played at the Lahaina Civic Center on the island of Maui.  Several other tournaments are also shifting their locations this fall, as the NCAA and schools seek to set up 'bubble environments' similar to what the NBA and NHL have done to allow play without fans in attendance and other measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. 

“We couldn’t be more excited and deeply honored to bring the Maui Jim Maui Invitational here to Asheville,” said Demp Bradford, president of the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission in a statement. “Asheville’s ability to host this top-level sporting event is a testament to state and local partnerships built on a track record of welcoming and supporting national, and international, competitive events to Buncombe County.”  Teams, staff, officials, and members of the media will be placed in a bubble environment that will limit their movement and interaction outside the venue.  

The schools in this year's tournament field include Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas, and UNLV.  The Tar Heels have won the Maui Invitational four times, most recently in 2016, a season they went on to win their 6th national championship.  Only Duke has won the Maui Invitational more times (5).  Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams is a graduate of T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, and his first coaching job was at Charles D. Owen High School in Black Mountain.

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.
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